Music : interrupted / Piano : repurposed ~ { Part III }

First of all, this is part III which obviously relate to part II and part I. If you’ve just stumbled onto this blog, it might interest you to check those out as well. Second of all, there will be a part IV to this. Though the armoire is standing and functional, there still is a bit to do yet aesthetic-wise. And also, this is not really a how-to so much as it is a this-is-what-I-did. I know that some people find this site via a Google search seeking how that might go about repurposing an old piano they may have. If you have any specific questions regarding how I did something, send me a note.

But in a nutshell, “it’s alive!

From Beyond. A Frankensteinian amalgamation: "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." ~ HP Lovecraft

I’m working backwards here by showing the most finished picture before showing the ramp up to it. But I got excited. Can you blame me? Doesn’t this look fun? I’m so pleased that it turned out as well as it did. Vision is one thing but execution is everything. But I am getting ahead of myself. So you saw where it was last time; a hollow shell. Well there isn’t that much more to than that really.

Here's a look at her shelf guts before we sow her back up.

Once we sat the TV inside we realized we had a major problem. The screen, more or less fits inside the hole and most of the TV casing is covered. This is desirable, yes. However ~ this meant that the remote control sensor, which was right at the bottom center of the casing, was blocked. To get the remote to work I had to literally stand right in front of the television, hold the remote just inches away, aim it straight down at the television and hope that what ever magic rays that make remote controls work would squeeze themselves into the crevice and change a channel. What’s the point of a remote then, right?  You might’ve noticed the solution in the photo above but in case you didn’t:

Holey piano, Batman

A hole right in the center.  Now without too much difficulty at all, I can again change channels just like a modern man. The only drawback is I can’t be too far left or right of the hole to use the remote. If our particular TV had a plug in sensor like some do, we’d be in the pink. That would’ve been very helpful.  I will paint or stain the inside of the hole so it disappears somewhat ~ or perhaps cover it with an antique radio speaker cloth (like this) which would hide it yet would allow whatever necessary magic remote control rays to arrive to television. It may be a moot point as the hole basically disappears when the cover is up (see the first picture in this post).

As I mentioned, there will be a part IV to this as there’s still work I’d like to do to it. I want the television to be able to be 100% concealed whenever I want it to be so I will have to figure out how to put hinges back onto the music stand that is currently missing. Initially I was going to have it flip straight up but there are several reasons why that won’t work. Plan B is to split the piece down the center. Ideally I’d love to be able to have them close like this player piano‘s does but I think the shape of my piano simply prevents that from working. What I’ll likely end up doing, if the moulding on the edges permits, is turn the single music stand into 2 cabinet-esque doors I can open and close.

It’s been mentioned a few times by a few folks that I should do this as a business. That’s an interesting thought. This project was one of the biggest pains in the neck ever but in the end it worked. If you’ve got an old piano that you don’t play and you’d like to do something like this (or something else altogether), do drop me a note. You’ll find I can be quite awesome, but humble.

It must be said that I couldn’t have completed this project without the help of Kevin Garcia, whom I referenced in one of my very first Hair Tonic & Horse Feathers posts, as well as Mark Rosellini. Even more thanks goes to my wife for allowing this project to go on INDOORS for so long. Hopefully a nice piece of unique antique furniture to hide our ugly black & shiny modern devices will make up for the trouble .

Part IV coming soon.

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Lost Springs, Boll Weevil & Jocassee Valley

Every once in a while, something blips on my radar that is so incredibly magical, it never leaves. I end up thinking about it for months and years afterward. This song & this video, ‘Lost Springs‘ is one of those ‘things’:

Lost Springs By Nick Zynda

click to watch 'Lost Springs' By Nick Zynda

The song, “Boll Weevil” is a song that I’ve been obsessed for many years. It’s essentially a Moby-esque ‘folktronica‘ mashup done by the late Greg Hale Jones using the vocals, recorded 72 years ago, of early 20th century folk vocalist Vera Hall singing (acapella) the song “Boll Weevil Hollar” to which he added his own instrumentation.

The film itself is a brilliant concept which I cannot help but to compare to a scene in one of my favorite movies of all time, ‘O Brother, Where Art Tho?’. It also reminds me of an absolutely fascinating true story about a town that used to be called Jocassee Valley but is now a lake called Lake Jocassee and the hotel that still sits 300 feet beneath it. Ever since I heard about Jocassee, I can’t stop thinking of it. I’ve written songs about it. Very haunting, very magical, very…tragic.

But I digress. It’s a brilliant song and a clever video that Mr. Nick Zynda has made for it. I absolutely applaud his smart amalgamation of modern technology (green screen & underwater footage) and old-fashioned themes and classic film making techniques (by using miniatures). Hopefully this short film, Greg Hale Jones’ song & the story of Jocassee Valley will inspire you as it did me.

Music : interrupted / Piano : repurposed ~ { Part II }

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but that’s not stopped my regular influx of people who come to this site to find one of two things: information about vintage ice boxes and/or 1930’s european haircuts. If you want to make a website with guaranteed traffic, make one about those things.

So I’m returning to post a little bit of the progress for my piano repurposing that I wrote about here a few months ago. I’ve got a hard deadline of July 30th to finish this up and get it home-ready so I’m burning the 9:30 oil to get it done. I’m too old and what with work in the morning, to burn the midnight oil. I’m still aiming to make it an armoire for our flat-screen Netflix machine (our television) and though the hardest parts are finished, I’m left with the parts that required a little bit of know-how and that’s a lot of what I don’t have when it comes to construction.

Out of body experience.

As you might be able to figure out from the photo above (and the photos in part I ), I was able to get the harp of the piano out and sort of reconstruct the shell of the piano. You can see it there at the bottom of that picture. THE hardest part of all of this has been trying to remove the harp from the wood it’s connected to. The 88 tuning pegs that held those high tension strings are no surprisingly anchored into the wood. It’s like they didn’t want them to move. Ever. I’ve tried removing them one by one as if they were a bolt but aside from not having the right tools, those things do not want to budge. Plan B. 

Macabre! Macabre! Macabre!

Even that has been too insanely heavy to move by myself. Since I’ve been doing this all by myself I’ve not had any help thus far, it’s just been laying on the floor where it landed for a few months until I’ve been able to get to it. To get some of the wood off of it and make it light enough to at least scoot I’ve had to literally beat it with a sledgehammer and a dull axe that’s about as old as the piano. I am beating only the wood (if I can help it) and am trying to salvage the harp so I can repurpose that too once I’m finished with this project. 

Behind the Strings: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

With the help of a friend I’ve actually made the piano about 3 or 4 inches shallower (though it had gotten too dark at the time for me to take pictures of it’s post-op state). Our home & living room is small enough to be measured in square inches rather than square feet so space is definitely an issue. As a remedy, Jen & Pat, two the lovely ladies at Aubergine Emporium suggested that we cut the piano to save a few inches. It was a brilliant idea as the television was a flat screen, we didn’t need all of that room inside the piano. As an added bonus, it’s just that much lighter too – and it needed the diet. Even though all the really heavy parts are out of the piano, it’s still a beast to move.

So that is where we are at the moment. The shell of an upright piano with a slimmer figure and it’s organs have almost all been harvested. The next step is to build a shelf sturdy enough for the television and strengthen the whole structure a bit from the back. Without all the inside supports, it kind of does a hula-dance if you push against it. Not something I’d like to set an expensive piece (yet ugly) of technology on quite yet. Part III and hopefully a finished product coming very soon.

Oh yeah, and wheels. A nice set of new casters are in order.

The Ice I Tread to Tell You

Friends! I just put up  a ‘new’ song of mine up on YouTube. It’s actually not new whatsoever but letting it out into the world is the new part. It’s called “The Ice I Tread to Tell You” and I wrote it for a very dear friend to whom I owed a an apology.

Iffins in case you enjoyed the song and iffins you missed the post a few days ago, here’s a bunch more demos I’ve done over the years and posted on YouTube. I posted them because all they’ve done is sit on hard drives for years so might as well share them and not be my own personal archivist.

FAWM#02: Old Adam! Old Adam!

2 down and 12 more to go! I’ve got a good feeling about this month. I think I might hit my 14 song goal for the first time ever (and this is my seventh FAWM!) I will be pleased as punch if I even make it half way but I think.

Here’s the second song out of February.

I wrote the melody and figured out the theme while sitting on a stool next to my wife as she made dinner. (I do think my wife needs a round of applause for dealing with me during FAWM. There’s a term for her amongst the community of songwriters who participates: a FAWM widow). My cruddy guitar playing lead me to a simple 3 chord verse & melody and actually I’ve been kicking around the title ‘Old Adam” for a while in my head. It’s actually based ever so loosely on my little brother Adam. He’s still a ‘youngster’ of 13 but for as long as I can recall he’s been as grumpy and as salty as an ‘elder’ of 93. The name ‘Old Adam’ struck me as a great name for an old country murder ballad so I borrowed my young Adam for inspiration and wrote him into a song that’s supposed to be 130 years old. My young Adam isn’t so fond of church-goin’ (neither was I at that age for that matter) but he’s still of that age that he’s made to go with ma & pa so I kind of took that thought, matured it and put it on my grown-up Old Adam character…a rowdy old-soul, out looking for vengeance for some wrong done against him and is at odds with God, troubled and weighed down by that God.

Though this is a first draft of a song really, I am fond of the lyrics. What’s a little unclear is the middle bit where the narrator says;

Your mother’s heart’s made of wax
And your heart’s made of red clay
And your sins are like the sun…”

I tried to get the concept through that the sins of old Adam (the sun) are hardening Old Adam’s heart (made of clay) but those sins are breaking his mother’s heart (of wax). I’m not sure that part is all so clear as it’s been pointed out to me. I’ll have to revisit that it seems.

In any case, enjoy the journey with me.

The Februarian does FAWM

February Album Writing Month (FAWM) is upon us once again. If you’re a musician and you’ve not heard of it, I implore you to hear of it. In a nutshell, it’s an online collective of musicians who attempt each individually write 14 songs in the 28 days of February.  This will be my 6th year participating in FAWM and never have I even come within the county let alone the city of 14 songs in a month but in the end, though I constantly do not make the goal, at least have brought songs into the atmosphere that weren’t there before. FAWM is about quantity, not quality.  This is great for an individual such as myself as I have a nasty habit of editing as I go along ~ not going forward unless  I’m 100% satisfied with what behind me. That leads to alot of stillborn songs.

So ~~ here I am making it very public and holding myself accountable. I hope for 14 but will be satisfied with 4.  If you care to follow me on the FAWM.org site, please do!

In the meantime as we countdown to February, here’s a few demos that I’ve written for FAWM in the last 5 years:

http://www.youtube.com/v/aztx7rqA3nk?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/TRNlPdFBzgo?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/4okLLVT6vfc?fs=1&hl=en_US

http://www.youtube.com/v/Swdv-MDENSc?fs=1&hl=en_US

I Tweet.