The Man, the Myth... the goofy clothing...
And so, with the aid of a green screen, CamTwist software, and a youtube video, I sat down and performed for this video with me inside the ship...
Christopher Condent, the pirate, forced the surrender of a Dutch privateer ship, and renamed her The Flying Dragon. Yep, I couldn't get an actual ticket to that, so I am attempting to bring The Flying Dragon to me.
.That is how I spent some time in the captain's cabin on Halloween.
Oh, and with the release of Mythtakes, my previous stopgap "Bootleg" CD is now obsolete. Fear not, you know those computer files that I mentioned above? The Bootleg mp3's are among them.
This coming weekend is the release party for my newest CD, Mythtakes. Some people call this event the Medieval Fair of Norman, but we know better. Remember there are two versions of each of my CDs. The ones with fancy packaging are about $15 online, and the clamshell CDs are $10 at faire.
Why the difference? For one, the clamshells are more compact and lighter to carry... Plus, they are special in that I put a lot more content on them specifically to be read by your computer. My CD service won't do that. Also, without all the packaging and handling, I can afford to sell them to you cheaper. But, if want to pick up a pretty copy online you can go to Createspace.com to order yours today.
Coming to the release party? That will be from April 1st through the 3rd in Reeves Park, Norman, Oklahoma. I'll be there and I've invited about 300,000 of my closest friends to celebrate the whole weekend.
I've got you on the guest list, no need to check in with the front desk.
I recently put together a keynote (powerpoint) presentation to help make sure I made my key points. Because I embedded youtube videos in it, It's too large to upload here, but I can post a link to it in drop box.
Azure, on a chevron or,
between three lions passant gardent or,
three crosses pattee sable.
The above is a depiction of one of the arm associated with the name Fowler (with a lot of liberties that I've taken with everything except the field).
This is not my family crest... because we know there is no such thing as a family crest, and what we call a coat of arms is actually known as an armorial achievement, and a "coat of arms" is an actual coat. Still, it can be entertaining to pretend and reimagine ancient times, so I use the rule of tinctures to teach concepts of value, contrast and color regarding visibility and recognizability. Most people just don't know how to make a good sign.
I use various resources to facilitate teaching the concepts, and I thought I might post my basic handouts here below. the one marked Heraldry is a 4 page 11" x 17" double sided fold out folder for their work to be placed in when they are not working on it. The escutcheons sheet is a double sided page of shield shapes.
The Stone Troll is from Tolkien, the fox is the traditional melody, and the Troubadour is me. Oh, the nuisance of copyright. Here is one small adventure of making a new CD.
It has been a while since I created a new Faire CD. (I'm not counting my "Bootleg" Edition since it is just cobbled together from stuff I wasn't using, and it doesn't sell through any official sources anyway.) I have been producing Christian work for a goodly number of years as recording conventions have changed... at least for me, they have.
Now I can record lyrics and music on multiple separate tracks and mix them together at the end. Once upon a time it was more like, here's an open mike performance... let's add another track or two and mix them down, repeat, etc. It's still like voodoo, but more refined because I can go back and edit more stuff later.
That's all great for the mechanics of it but it does not cover musical content. I have three choices when recording any marketable material:
First, I can use public domain materials. Shakespeare, Folk songs, old broadside lyrics, and other old stuff offers quite an array to select from. I can even make derivative works from such stuff, like setting the lyrics of Amazing Grace to the melody of House of the Rising sun. The first is a poem that has had at least 20 melodies associated with it over the centuries, and the second is one of those old folk songs. (No, The Animals did not write the song.) If it is over ninety-five years old, it is fair game.
Second, I can write my own material. I do that too. I pop a few chords together and I have a new melody for something old. Writing lyrics is actually a bit more difficult, but if I have a theme, and a literary direction, it becomes easier. I find that writing comedy is more difficulty than sentiment in this respect. This process takes longer, requiring much more time.
Third, I can acquire the rights for something already out there. This is a copyright work around allowing people to record that song that they may have heard on the radio or television. Theoretically anyone can gain what is called mechanical rights to record a song in the United States. There are several stipulations, but the compulsory price is not very high, and there are collection agencies on the internet willing to do it for about $15 a song plus the 9.1 cents per copy stipulated by law.
Here is what I wanted. Tolkien wrote several songs, and I wanted to include a version of the Stone Troll (or Sam's Rhyme of the Troll) on my new CD. As a part of his Lord of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I figured it would be a nice literary balance to go along with two songs that I had written, one about Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, and another inspired by Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. Tolkien had published it in multiple sources and had mentioned that it went to the melody of an old folk song. From the meter, that song seems to have been The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night.
So, how to acquire the rights? I found a couple of online agents and searched their database. No joy there, so I filled out the online forms and contacted them. Then, I did get a false hit on the Stone Troll from the Lord of the Rings movie, but I had to inform them that it was Tolkien's work that I was interested in, not the movie background music. Really, it should not be this difficult. So, I went online again and did some digging. I have found at least four different recordings of this song made under the proper copyrights, but two of them were made outside the U. S. and so compulsory mechanical rights laws do not apply. One of the remaining two is part of a larger literary performance, and therefore compulsory mechanical rights laws again do not apply. And, none of them use the melody of The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night, which makes the last one useless as well, because compulsory mechanical rights laws do not include derivative works. Here, using the intended melody is considered changing the melody.
i could go with the Ace books defense whereby the Lord of the Rings was considered to be public domain in the United States for a brief while back in the 60s. But, as much as I would like to claim ignorance of the details, and that I have a copy of said printing, it would ultimately be self serving and, i feel, unethical.
Meanwhile, I had recorded music to go along with the eight verses of Tolkien's song, but after doing all of these agent's research for them, I determined that we will have to all wait until the year 2043.
And so I changed my research to the possibility of other lyrics to go with the music that I had already recorded. Interestingly enough, as folk songs go, the meter is rather unique, which means if I was going to use the music for a folk song, it would need to be
The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night. Not my favorite song, but I already had the music ready to go. I trimmed the recording down to seven verses and recorded away. Not bad but...
After balancing it out and listening to it a few times, I decided that these lyrics just do not do it for me. I've got songs about mermaids and wizards and unicorns, and I already have a Fox song with a more El Zoro theme. This song may have history, but it has never made my hit parade.
And so, I have this music... and a pencil... new lyrics it is... the working title for the new six verse song is The Folk Song. Until the next CD, here's The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night (below).... because I already have it recorded.
So... no troll, no fox... instead I have a new song about an old song.
Bryan Nash posted a link to this video on facebook.
I watched it all the while thinking, "hey, I did a diagram something like this some years back when I was thinking about multiple character garb for cheap." Well, I found the diagram in a pile of sketches, and here it is:
You can download the booklet below.
This past week I experienced the privilege of working with the Texarkana Renaissance Faire. While many smaller faires struggle to survive the rigors of a world that has multiple entertainment opportunities, I feel that this faire has a great shot at the long haul. It seems large enough to sustain momentum, but now past its fourth year, it will need to keep growing, bit by bit. Spirit are high, and the main struggle that I foresee will be getting the word out to their local community.
I was very glad to see many of the staples of the faire experience represented, from sca boffing to horse rides and acrobatic juggling performers as well as two royal courts. With all of this were added the fae contingent of fairies, a Minotaur, several mermaids, a magical fox and even a unicorn. Plus pirates, like bacon, they enhance. I was part of the musical contingent. Welcome to Neverland.
At first nonplussed by Saturday's gate opening when the patrons slowly trickled in, I noticed that they kept coming in at a similar rate all day long. Huzzah! And best of all, most stayed for the long haul. The traffic remained steady up until the end. That is great for the merchants, who we must concede are the real backbone of a faire. A steady stream means never being overwhelmed. I hope their sales coincide.
Characteristically, I left home the morning of the faire. Texarkana hit my radar through a listing on Meistersrealm, and I had noticed that it is on the very outskirts of my travel range. But, that meant that I had to leave at about 4am, so I was already a bit travel worn when I arrived in time for the 9am meeting. The talk was to the point, mostly logistics with a little pep, and mercifully, uncharacteristically for some faires, brief. Please keep that up. There was no similar meeting on Sunday, so thank you also for trusting your performers to figure it out. There was always room to move along and perform wherever we wished.
Backstage is where one often hears the best and worst. What I heard was playful. We even exchanged a riddle or two. That says volumes. In a fantasy world, the spirits must remain high. Take it from a former Disney cast member, that is not always so. Plus, thank you Texarkana Faire for the great piles of water bottles. I downed about eight or ten of them when the weather did get a bit warm.
Now, I did pack street clothes, but truthfully, I did not change into them for the whole weekend. Much of the cast went out en mass on Saturday night, but while it was a mass exodus, it was in small groups, so as a solo I was a bit lost sitting alone at the bar. Thank you to the few who came over from their tables to say a quick hello; you made me feel welcome. I did get to talking with some of the locals there about all of the strangely clothed patrons, and found out that none of them knew about the faire. One of the restaurant staff even asked if there was a LARP event going on, and some wanted to know if there was jousting. Sadly, no and no, but I did manage to pique their interests, and tell them that I fully expected to see them on Sunday. I then retired to the hotel for the evening before I managed to turn into a pumpkin. Thank you Texarkana Faire for the nice room and board.
I met more interested folk at breakfast. Dressing the part first thing in the morning attracts some interesting looks, often followed by questions. All in all, I probably talked with a dozen locals who did not know about the faire and told them to come look me up there. Oh, the difficulty of marketing in a modern world. Word of mouth only works within social circles, and in a crazy world where one can choose their own data stream it becomes difficult to be seen by a public that is used to skipping commercial content. What can one do? The spectacle will sell it, so keep the faith Texarkana. You have arrived, keep the ball in play, and your base will keep growing. I can only hope that my small efforts send some your way.
I just got back from the 4th Annual Texarkana Renaissance Festival last weekend and I’m sore in all the right places. (Yes, that means it was a good faire.) Each faire brings with it lots of experiences, both new and old, and this one proved no different in that respect. A couple of these encounters, however stand out, so I thought I might expand.
A well meaning fellow performer commented to me that my “material was going over the heads of my audience.” He meant it sincerely, and I love him for that, still I have to admit that that is right where I want to be. I can joke about it, mostly because I’m not making a living at it. A couple of years ago another performer commented that they liked the way I paired themes to enhance meaning, like singing about Machiavelli to the melody of the Turtle’s Happy Together. I actually hadn’t entirely made that connection myself, but like the artist I trained as, I take full credit for my unintended little mistakes of genius. Evidently, I want the music to go over my head as well. Like a scene from a Pixar movie, I want people to enjoy it all on their own level. And parents, if your kids get the higher level jokes, it’s not my fault.
I was raised in a theater family on a diet of Shakespeare, and Greek and Norse mythology, with a smattering of Monty Python and classic Star Trek thrown in for good measure. I spent my summers with my grandparents in their rather huge music store, surrounded by musical instruments, and classic sci-fi television. I even lived for two years in Lothlorien of Middle Earth where we put together some great haunted houses. (I used to get big question marks on my mail, but it was always delivered.) Eventually, I found Karen, the best part of my life, and she brought me the gift of the church. (Well, Jesus is the greatest gift, and the church is a mixed blessing that goes along with the package.)
I now teach art with a sort of historical mash up approach, and entertain people at Renaissance faires for my own enjoyment with a similar methodology.
So, you see, I don’t do this stuff so much for the patrons. I tell my students the same thing: I cannot please everyone, and when I try to do so, I end up pleasing no one. So, I do what I like, and I invite others along for the ride. At a faire, it’s all theater, so I have stuff that I have written along with material from other sources, some typical material, some classical, and some things that others have written that amuse me. I try to put my stamp on all of it with melody or style. Of my own material, there is a distinction between the stuff I do for faire, and the stuff I do not, but sometimes that dividing line is thin.
My non-faire songs are generally christian in nature, and they probably cover more of my musical writings than not. Still, the two are not mutually exclusive, like the Christmas Cantata that I wrote with a general Celtic theme, one discipline informs the other. Pick up my Antiephemeral CD if you want to hear how Celtic music, rock, and christianity can get along. Playing in the Water is our Church CD that I produced and wrote the majority of songs for as well. I do faires to relax.
I do the same sort of stuff in the classroom, dragging students through the process in the process. Yes, they suffer through my history presentations and ramblings, and they do the odd project using all too traditional materials with my invitation to bring the modern into the picture through their own experiences and willy nilly metaphors. Some actually do. I introduce them to the limitation of the media in the hope of driving their creativity. That’s just another process. Yet all along the way, what I do for them I do for me, and I invite them to participate in the experience... much like this rambling that you have just read through.
So here is what I do... music. Specifically, I sing songs. During the renaissance, the easiest and quickest way to make a profit from a printing press was to print unbound pages. Today we might call them flyers or informational pamphlets. A printer would set up side by side pages like they would bind in a book, and print them on one side of a piece of paper. This is a broadside, a double-wide page.
See also: Renaissance Tips
The logical direction of the conversation then progresses to "what do you do?" to which I tell them that I'm a broadside balladeer. "What is that?" is the usual reply.
People sometimes ask "did you go to (fill in the blank) faire?" without realizing that I was working there. Albeit, I don't have the time to work many events, but only some people get that I have an act.
example copy of a broadside ballad
Among the most popular of these were song lyric sheets. They sold for around a penny. Without recording devices, your tunes came from your own voice. And, if you did not know the melody, never fear, many of these broadside ballads started out with a note of what melody to use. Most of these melodies were widely known or even traditional melodies from aural/oral music traditions. If you were lucky, a balladeer might even sing part of it for you so that you could learn.
I'm the person that sells the song lyrics, using melodies familiar to the people.
Medieval Fair of Norman, Last Huzzah! (3/29/2015)
Most full time faire acts are stage acts for the simple reason that they are a commodity. You get x number of units of entertainment per day for y amount of money. Also, when people sit in an area at a crowded fair, they are not clogging the traffic flow elsewhere. I makes sense to book your biggest draws during the busiest times.
Yes, I occasionally perform on stage when a fair needs filler, but I prefer to work without a stage for a couple of reasons. First of all, if the people don't come to me, I take the music to them. Second, I get better tips when I put myself where the action is. And... mobility allows me to see the people and sights of the faire. I would much prefer to play in an open air food court where people are gong to be looking for a place to sit and eat than up on a stage in the corner of nowhere.
No one has thrown their food at me yet.
I see various kickstarter campaigns looking for money to produce various audio CDs, and I'm just not sure where the money goes. I mean, with digital audio capabilities being what they are today, who gets paid for producing a CD anymore?
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