Saturday, August 26, 2017

ST13R4 Reviews: Caleb Hines

Dave's Note: Caleb had the temerity to come out of the hermit cave he's been in and express an interest in this challenge. Seeing as this musical technique (which is called ) originated during the baroque period which is still lives on in Caleb, I invited him to be a guest judge.


My name's Caleb. Many of you know me already, but for those who don't, I was an early contestant in SpinTunes, and it's predecessor, Masters of Song Fu (which I joined after discovering the music of Coutlon). Aside from that, I’m a software engineer with a strong interest in historical music, especially of the Baroque and Renaissance, and an interest in music theory. Since those eras deal heavily in counterpoint, and this challenge involves counterpoint, Dave asked if I'd guest judge this round. I agreed, although I haven't been following SpinTunes since I stopped participating, which means some of you may have been around for a while but I'm just hearing you for the first time.

One of the things I'll be looking for specifically in this round is how well contrasted the two songs are. The ranking probably doesn’t matter from me, but my method is really simple: everyone starts with a score of zero, and will get +/-1's for things I do or don't like. Yes, this means that zero and negative scores are possible. As with any music judging, my opinions, although hopefully informed and constructive, are subjectively my own: there may be things I don’t like that were deliberate choices on your part. Tough luck.

Jailhouse Payback: Path of Totality / Oregon
-1 This pair of songs lasted longer than my attention span; I got bored. It probably didn't need so many verses and solos.
-1 The two songs don't feel that different to me musically, one feels like a continuation of the other, making this entry's length feel all the more monotonous.
-1 The lyrics are phrased in such a way as they are often both on or both off. It might have been better if you could fill the "whitespace" between phrases in one song with a phrase from the other song.
+1 Although the chorus is just a short hook, I do like the counterpoint there.
+1 Even though the song was too long, I did enjoy the guitar solo, although I had hoped there would be a double-solo when the two songs combined.
+1 I'm not sure how, but your production does a good job of distinguishing the parts, so they are both easy to hear when together.

Total Score: +0

Jerkatorium: Oh No / Sunblock
+1 This is fun to listen to! And it doesn't overstay it's welcome.
+1 Musically, these songs are definitely different. Good combination of half-notes against sixteenth-notes. Almost like the first is a cantus firmus.
-1 The first set of lyrics are a bit hard to hear during the combined section. Maybe panning them would have helped
+1 The last four lines make effective use of whitespace between phrases to bounce between lyrics.

Total Score: +2

Menage a Tune: Rebels Out For Glory / Reflected Glory
-1 First song uses “meta-lyrics”. I've been there before: they can be fun to do, and it's an easy topic. But in the long run it reduces the repeatability of this song and it feels a bit lazy.
+1 I like the lyrics in the second half. At first, the two topics didn't seem that connected logically, but I there is a loose connection there in terms of seeking "glory".
+1 Good contrast between the guitar in the first half and the ethereal synth soundscape in the second half.
+0 Heavily EQ'ing the guitar as you did (and later, the male voice at the end) is a good idea to "make room" acoustically, but the mix still feels a bit crowded in the combined section, and JoAnn's voice is muddled in parts. Since this is more likely due to the available equipment I'm not taking off for it, but I can tell that you're working around it (been there, done that).

Total Score: +1

Sara Parsons: Eclipse
+1 Really great job combining major and minor keys to get two contrasting moods, and weaving them together seamlessly.
+1 Lyrically, these two songs clearly relate to each other and combine into a unified whole.
+0 Woot! Ukulele! No bonus points for that, but I won't hold it against you. :-D
-1 Clipping in the recording makes this painful on headphones. I expected better.
Total Score: +1

Tie breaker between Menage a Tune and Sara Parsons:
+0.5 to Sara Parsons for being the song that would be more enjoyable to re-listen to.

1 Jerkatorium
2 Sara Parsons
3 Menage a Tune
4 Jailhouse Payback


Governing Dynamics: Tension
+1 Good use of differing vocal registers and panning to distinguish your voices.
-1 Full disclosure: I often find GD's songs somewhat rambly for my taste (sorry Travis).
+1 Typical good performance and production values from GD to create a soothing electronic soundscape.

Total Score: +1

Glen Raphael: Be Kind / Call Names
+1 This is a good example of how to do political lyrics without incitement
+1 The rhyming of Fuhrer and Mao was cleverly done :-)
+1 Good independence between between the two melodies, (and when they both rest, you add interesting guitar fills).
+1 Exceptional production & performance
-1 Connection to the eclipse is weak

Total Score: +3 (This would have won for me, if it wasn't a shadow)

Micah Sommersmith: Song About the Sun and the Moon
+1 Finally! Some real Renaissance polyphony! And in Latin, even! Sweet! :-D
-1 The two main songs aren't that different stylistically, more like two half-songs (it actually works for what you're going for, but I need to be consistent).
+1 You throw in a third song that is stylistically different (the Latin), and fits over the other two so you get a bonus point back.
+1 The two main songs are well-designed to fit into each other. This takes my earlier advice about filling in the whitespace in one song with the other to the extreme.

Total Score: +2

Rob From Amersfoort - Dance Around The Sun - The Moon King
-1 The mood of the music should support the mood of the text: e.g. the first half is singing about being happy, but sounds like a dirge.
-1 The ponderously-repeated four block-chord phrases get very monotonous and make this difficult to listen to.
-1 Too much EQ on the second voice makes it hard to understand
+1 Combined vocals are well-panned

Total Score: -2

Army Defense - Wabasha Shadows
-1 I have no idea what these songs are about, or how the music supports it.
-1 This lasts way too long.
+1 There's some stylistic difference between the songs, and the mix is adequate.

Total Score: -1