Saturday, August 28, 2010

GBGC Original: Today is My Birthday

What better way to kick off the beginning of the post-countdown season than with a GBGC original?

I wrote this song for a "show" that I performed at my birthday party. It (the show) didn't quite turn out as I'd planned or imagined it, but it was nevertheless perfect. The right thing for the right atmosphere. Hopefully somebody got a good live recording of this song at the party, because the audience reactions are priceless and not reproducible. 

Now that it's over and done with, the GBGC episodes will be less frequent. Once again, although I was determined to go, I skipped yoga in order to get this posted in time (I technically still have 4 hours until I'm officially 40). It's time I take the diligence and dedication that I've learned from this experience and apply them to other areas of life. 

It's been fun, y'all! Peace, out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-1, Running Up That Hill. Still running...

So I’ve reached the last day of my personal 30-day challenge. I set out to make one Bad Guitar video per day until my birthday, and my birthday is tomorrow (so, depending on how you look at it, I might have to make one more). First of all, I can’t believe I’ve pulled it off. Nobody is paying me to do it. Nobody really would have cared (or noticed) if I had skipped a day. There are many things which I’ve pushed aside in order to achieve this one goal (mostly mundane housework things, but my yoga has also suffered), and if I haven’t been able to push something aside, I’ve simply included it in the video (building IKEA furniture, going on a wee trip to the wine festival, etc.).
The last one was the toughest one, though. Up till now, I’ve just taken the ideas as they came to me. But today, I felt I had to pick a song which was more meaningful or appropriate for the cause. The truth of the matter is, I had no inspiration whatsoever. Although “Running Up That Hill” is quite a fitting anthem for what everyone is searching for in this long life, a greater understanding, I still don’t think it sums up my 40 years in a nutshell. Also, I found it nearly impossible to grasp the form and the changes so, like many people on YouTube, I just sort of made up my own version. But not without a fight. 
At the time of writing, I also have the feeling that I have to say something especially poignant to sum up the experience. That may come later, but today is just another day. And I suppose tomorrow will be, too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-2, Gimme, gimme, gimme some new Swedish furniture

GBGC Tutorial: How to Assemble 
Semi-disposable Swedish Furniture
After having built the sleeper sofa all by myself, I had no fear of the buffet cabinet from IKEA. Once again, the assembly instructions pictured two characters, but I knew I could manage on my own. Sure, it would be nice to have someone help - in fact, a friend offered to come by on Friday and help, but the fact of the matter is, I'm too impatient. Why should I wait a whole day, playing the damsel in distress, when I can actually manage by myself and have things when I want them?  Now, one day later, I am sitting on my brand-spankin'-new couch, and have a cabinet much more fitting for my home than the one that stood there before it. Might be spiessig, but I guess that's what getting older is all about! Turn up the ABBA  and let's start building!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-3, Close to Me. Getting closer. And closer.

It seems that bit by bit, my life is falling into place. And it's material things that make me think so. For the first time in my life, I have a new couch. I mean a brand new couch, like, that no one's ever owned before me.
The Germans sometimes call a corner couch a Wohnlandschaft - a living landscape. Although my sleeper sofa isn't big enough to qualify for this distinction, in my small living room, it sure does take up a lot of the landscape. And somewhere in my mind, I feel closer to being a bit more grown up. Hope to write more about this phenomenon in my other blog ("Christine's Voice") before my big F-word birthday. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-4, Weeping Wine (Tour of the Weinfest in Guntersblum)

Here at Grahamophone's Bad Guitar Channel, we aim to entertain, but also to educate and intrigue. This is a tour of a typical German Weinfest. They claim to be one of the few wine festivals that serves their customers in actual wine cellars (as opposed to just at tables lined along the street), but I can't imagine that no one esle in all the land hasn't already thought of that. At any rate, I think this little film will give you the idea of what such a festival is like. The weather was lovely, the wine and the food was good (no bad sausages!), and the company was great.

For more about the music, you might want to read my article about Lloyd Cole from my other blog:

Monday, August 23, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-5, Back on the Chain Gang (featuring the train gang)

When my friend Caroline asked me to be part of her goodbye party outing to the wine festival in Guntersblum, I couldn't imagine being able to take part. First of all, I had to do a daily Bad Guitar Channel episode, and second of all, I thought it would be too expensive. As it turns out, the Gruppentageskarte costs not even 25 Euros, and with it you can take up to five people on the train to any destination within that price class. What's more, during a wine festival (which is all about the tasting, you know), wine is extremely cheap. As for the Bad Guitar Channel episodes, well, there was only one thing left to do - bring the guitar with me. Today's episode, as well as tomorrow's will feature scenes from this trip. And I think we've captured the mood rather well. Thanks to my lovely assistants behind the camera, and a special thanks to Caroline for coming up with this fun quickie vacation idea! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-7, In a Big Country. *This* big!

Every Friday, the hip crowd convenes at Friedberger Platz in Frankfurt, which is just up the road from where I live. It used to be just another weekly market, where conscious shoppers would go to buy their organic vegetables and locally made cheeses and honey. Nowadays, you can wait a half an hour in line to get one glass of prickling Frankfurter apple wine (well worth it, by the way), a Rindswurst (typical Frankfurt all-beef sausage), and to see and be seen. And occasionally, some characters show up and try to provide entertainment. This was the dress rehearsal for perhaps a few more shows to come. Why not? It's just what people do on a Friday.

True to GBGC form, I had no idea when I set out to make this video that it would end up being a little lesson in geography. Things happen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-8, Lies, lies, lies!

Just  a little multi-kulti humor: "Lies, lies, lies!" is the imperative "Read! read! read!" in German. I hope you all are also enjoying the introductory texts to the videos, and have maybe taken a gander at my other blog: "Christine's Voice." No music there, just words. That was a word from our sponsor, now back to our normally scheduled programming, the Bad Guitar Channel, already in progress....

I wish I had paid more attention in Form and Analysis. That was the name of a music theory class I took at Northern Arizona University. The only things I remember about that class were writing a paper on a concerto when it should’ve been about a sonata (or the other way around), the professor storming out of the room once because he was fed up with us students, and finding my first gray hair. Seriously. I was 20.
Reacquainting myself with the sonata form just now, I think I’ve stumbled upon one of the reasons I like this song so much. In fact, I effin’ love this song. After its introductory phrases, it has an exposition, then a development, then a recapitulation of those thematic elements and a teeny-tiny coda.... This song is a sonata!
I wonder if Glen Hansard, star and composer of the Oscar-winning film “Once” knew that he was using compositional techniques first found in the 17th century?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-9, Spending the day reminiscing about mix tapes

If it weren’t for mix tapes, I don’t think I’d be half as cool as I am today. This is a song I got from a friend who made me a total of ... well ... three or four mix tapes. That’s not many, considering the letters we wrote to each other over the years probably number over a hundred. Still, each one of these tapes was so carefully crafted - the cover art, the handwriting, the selection and ordering of the music. To receive such a tape was always an honor, and I would come close to overestimating my status as the recipient of one had I not made a plethora of them myself.
Don’t get me wrong, that is not to say that people I make mix-tapes for mean nothing to me. Au contraire! The honor of receiving a compilation from me is not one bestowed upon many. Nevertheless one should always take into account that making a mix-tape is also a very selfish endeavor. 
Much like the portrait artist, for he does not paint only to please the king whose face he must depict, making a mix-tape appeases one’s own artistic expression:
First, finding the right songs to fit the theme of the tape, varying slow and fast as to not become too monotonous, finding those rare 43-second tracks to fill up the ends of cassettes in order to avoid white noise or - shudder to think - silence before flipping to the B-side. Or on the occasion that I have made multiple tapes for someone, to take care to not repeat a song from a previous mix. Then, painstakingly perusing old magazines for cover art images, writing the song titles on the inside cover with colored pens, making up catch phrases to write on each side of the cassette, making sure to space the letters evenly and stick the labels on straight....
Alas, the invention of the compact disc and the capability to burn them (as in make recordings, not actually ‘burn’ them) has led to the demise of the authentic mix tape. Still, I enjoy making my friends CDs with fancy, computer-generated cover art. And I hope I can share what I find to be good music in my own special way, by presenting my homespun videos on the Bad Guitar Channel.
Thanks, Carlo, for sharing this song with me all those years ago, and thanks to Poi Dog Pondering for writing it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-10, Crazy. I think I'll survive.

Something crazy happened. I found four guitar picks - two of them were too hard, one of them was too soft and one of them is just right. My, my, how playing with the pick sonorous the bad guitar does make 
(in German that sentence makes perfect sense)! But in the lower range, my voice couldn't quite cut through, and I didn't want to sing this particular number an octave up. So, I kind of cheated on this "quickie" and laid over an extra vocal track and had some fun with it (the "quickies" are usually unedited rough cuts), hence what looks like bad lip-synching in the video. No Milli Vanilli silliness here - it's all 100% organic, believe me. One of my new YouTube subscribers (yes, you can subscribe to the channel, or follow me on this very site) asked if I used a "harmonizer" - I begged his pardon!

I can't believe I've actually been pulling this off for three weeks straight. I must be crazy. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-11, This is the Day (well, not quite, but you never know)

I've not run out of songs to sing, but for the moment I've run out of profound things to say. I'll just let the music do the talking. This song is from one of my favorite albums of all time, "Soul Mining" by The The. It was fun making it - using the kazoo and being inspired by the 80's synthesizer "clap-clap" sound (as if they'd forgotten back then that most of us actually have hands to clap with). But the most fun I've had with the Bad Guitar Channel lately has been sharing the experience with friends, some of whom have helped in filming. It keeps the GBGC going and gets me out of my "studio."

Monday, August 16, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-12, Loser Like You (GBGC Original)

I bet you're wondering how an opera singer like me came to have such an affinity for guitars and rock and roll. Well, I suppose it has to do with me being born in 1970 and not 1870. Anybody with their eyes and ears open at the time will have noticed a bit of rockin' going on, I should hope. I find it astounding that there are some classical musicians who have no idea what "popular" music is all about.

But that's besides the point. I first started playing guitar my freshman year of college with some stoner dude who lived in my dorm. He taught me my first two chords: G major and E minor. It was with these two chords that I co-wrote my first country hit "The Cowboy Yodelin' Song" with another fellow resident of the dormitory (hopefully a recording of this song can be recovered. Scott? Gary? Anybody out there?).

Months, then years went by and I picked up more chords. With four chords I was able to play a number of songs - that's usually all you need. I reached the height of my guitar playing prowess while I was helping out in a band here in Germany. I owe most of my guitar talents to Miss Behavin' - I had the privilege of accompanying Miss B on a full-sized guitar, reacquainting myself with country music, which my parents used to listen to all the time (so I of course had to hate it at first).

It was during that time that I wrote this song - with FIVE chords - which the band then took and put on their album "Miss Behavin': Unplugged and Naked." They fixed it up real nice, with guitar solos, back-up singers and everything. Makes a mama proud! So if you're into full-fledged bands with tuned instruments, you should go buy yourself a copy of that or any other of their albums (I even sing back-up on the first few!). But for now, here's the original. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-13, Shine Like it Does: A Tour of Frankfurt

Today's episode is rather self-explanatory, and I'm extremely tired, so I'll keep it short. Only one more performance of  "Die Lustige Weiber von Windsor" - featured in the first 20 seconds of this video - by the Kammeroper Frankfurt. Then I will have more time to enjoy my favorite city, my home of choice. Here's a little tour for you!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-14, God (Tori Amos). A tour of the cathedral in Frankfurt

I am not a religious person. Although, since I have been religiously posting Bad Guitar videos, I am beginning to understand what that must be like. I have never believed in the dogma of religion - I am much more into principle - but somehow I do appreciate ritual. I think humans find comfort in ritual and habit. It never ceases to amaze me how Europe's beautiful cathedrals were built centuries ago without the aid of power tools, tractors, cranes, Diet Coke and the like. The religious person might say they built them for the glory of God, but I tend to think that going to church back then was like social networking is today. I feel closest to 'god' when I am singing, that's for sure. Still, capturing these videos clips made me feel a bit uncomfortable - like I was treading on territory where I didn't belong. A special thanks to my camera-men Daniel, Frank, and Eric.

Friday, August 13, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-15, Bad (U2). The Wrath of (Feroze) Khan, my yoga teacher

Introducing another branch of GBGC Enterprises - the GBGC rant. There's the Quickie, the Infomercial, the Original, and of course the plain old classic Track. And now there's the rant. Grahamophone tellin' it like it is. And here's the first sad story that I have to tell, inspired by events that conspired over the last... well... 30 years, but culminating in a tragic blow to the spirit which happened this very day. No introduction needed - it's all in the film.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-16, Hold Me Now

Well, I've reached the half-way point of my goal: posting a GBGC video every day until my birthday. It hasn't been easy. It's very time-consuming, especially during a full-fledged opera production. But I have to confess that playing my little guitar has been very enjoyable and even therapeutic at times. Not only have I proven to myself that I can stick to a goal, but I've been able to express my joy, my sorrow, my frustration, my fears, my successes, my thoughts .... hey, wait a minute. I think I've just figured out why I chose music as my career. You see? Grahamophone's Bad Guitar Channel, or the making thereof, is actually very useful.

There. I've validated one area of my life, now let's move on to another. Yesterday I had encounters of one sort or the other with four different men. Okay, one of them was a fictitious character, but still.... It was a headwrecker kind of day. I don't know how to continue this story without getting too personal, but let's just say, I discovered that the best friend I have right now is this little red guitar. 

There has been a song written for everyone and everything in every situation. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-17, Which Describes How You're Feeling All the Time

Surely you know the feeling (sorry, shan't call you Shirley any longer). The same thing that has been bugging you for years continues to nag you some more. I often think of this song when I'm having that feeling. Doesn't matter what it is... in fact, I've already forgotten. You see, I sang my worries away with a spritely madrigal from the GBGC.  Give it a try. It works!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-18, Waltzing Madonna (Lucky Star)

Truly there have been moments of genius as of late on the Bad Guitar Channel. Nevertheless, it's always good to get a Quickie in every now and again to remind us where it all begins.

 (this spot left intentionally blank to let your mind wander)

The GBGC Quickies are indeed comprised of "one" take, but it is seldom the first. Nor is this "Quickie" this first take, rather the second. And believe me, I was wanting to do a third, but I thought, 'What the hey,' my fans deserve to see a rough cut every now and then. So here it is. Here's what it has become. A Madonna song. In a waltz tempo. With an inadvertent and probably bad Irish accent.


Monday, August 9, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-19, Heartbreaker Infomercial

Just when I thought I couldn't top yesterday's post ... Well, I still don't think I topped it, but I am nonetheless very pleased with today's results. Mostly because, in addition to regular GBGC tracks, GBGC Quickies and GBGC Originals, I got the idea to start a GBGC Infomercial series. Serendipity is definitely at work here. I trust that my "real" life will work itself out in a similar manner.
By the way, Pat Benatar will be playing in New York on my actual birthday. REO Speedwagon will be on the same ticket. Coincidence? I think not. Thanks to the GBGC and other parties still enjoying their music, they can keep on rolling.
And thanks to my colleagues at the Kammeroper Frankfurt for assisting me in making this video!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-20, Superman

Sometimes I think I'm living in a parallel universe. Recently I was named 'best up and coming singer' in a national newspaper. On the radio the other day, the journalist reviewing the piece I'm in now claimed that I will be singing in one of Germany's better opera houses next season (does he know something I don't know?). The local newspapers have always praised my work (okay, okay enough own-horn tooting....). The reality is, I'm living a very ... very ... modest lifestyle and my business line isn't exactly ringing off the hook. Nor is my private line, come to think of it. So I wonder if all those newspaper articles and radio reportages are about a parallel me, a fantasy me, and all I have to do is break on through to the other side.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-21, (Keep Feeling) Fascination

"Your count down has me concerned that you will be gravely disappointed when you wake up and just feel exactly as good as you feel right now. it really is a let aches, no pains, no grays.... stupid numbers." That was a message sent to me by an old high school friend today. Indeed, I am not afraid of getting "older," but numbers do put things into a different perspective - one that I'm not always to happy to have. I know I won't feel any different. I'll just try to keep feeling fascination. Looking, learning, moving on!

(Thanks, Jamie, for helping me write my content today. I'm getting a bit weary. Like the Human League knows, it's sometimes hard to top your own self!)

Friday, August 6, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-22, The Dottie Song (A GBGC Original)

So I've been doing this for 10 days in a row now. TEN DAYS! The making of a GBGC video can take anywhere from one-half to eight hours. Before the process even begins, I have to decide on a song. Then afterwards, there's waiting for it to upload, entering all the information on YouTube, formatting the blog entry itself, promoting it by posting it on facebook and sometimes other sites.... It's quite a commitment. 

Yesterday - and I get this a lot - someone I know was asking me about the GBGC, then she said something along the lines of, "Oh, so that's what people who don't have kids do with their time." I confess I did not react with excess poise when I retorted, "That doesn't mean that I wouldn't rather have children." I hope she didn't take offense, because none was intended. I'm sure if I had children, I would organize my time differently, but I don't, so I won't. 

The GBGC is, at least for the time being, my baby. I created it, I brought it into this world, and I made a promise to myself nine days ago that I would make one video everyday until my birthday (T-22! Will I make it?). Of course it's different than the responsibilities of parents who have to make sure their little ones are fed, bathed, clothed, educated, informed, loved and protected. But I have been a very good parent to my Bad Guitar Channel. I strive for perfection -- totally "flawsome" perfection, that is (see GBGC #7). Over the past three months I have been compassionate, honest, sociopolitical, journalistic, poetic, comical, and sometimes even musical.

I have said I would do a lot of things over the years, and for the first time I am actually achieving one of them - and it's not nearly as easy as it may look (in fact, for some unknown reason, the first uploading attempt didn’t work). Today's installment portrays that quite well. I thought of settling for less many, MANY times today, but I kept going until the job was done, until my harshest critic was satisfied. I don't even brush my teeth with as much care, and that's probably far more important in the long run. Who shall say?

I'm very proud of myself for sticking to it, pulling through even though I don't always want to. I guess that's what good parents do, too.

For that and many other reasons, I think this video is my personal favorite thus far.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-23, Constant Craving

On my way home after the show tonight (for those of you not in the know, I'm actually a professional opera singer), I started humming this song. Right away, I thought there'd be too many chords in it, and sure enough, when I checked, I found that dreaded F chord. But I didn't want to be defeated on this day. Today, I wanted to get what I wanted. Most days, that doesn't happen. And here I was hoping to be "all set" by the time I was... well, in 23 days. 

In the meantime, I found out that the state of California just overturned its cockamamy ban on same sex marriage. Just because a person is gay in California, however, doesn't automatically mean that he or she has someone in their life they want to go out and marry today. And just because I am a damn good opera singer/actress/artist doesn't necessarily mean that the heavens are lining things up to make that happen, either. The want is still there, however. Constant craving has always been.

So this song goes out to truth seekers of all kinds who can finally get what they've been craving, even if that is only the recognition that it is okay to want what you want - and that you might actually deserve it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-24, I Need You

It's probably a good idea to watch the video before reading this, otherwise one of the jokes is verschenkt. First of all, I'm thoroughly proud of myself for doing eight days of GBGC Top 40 Countdown. Actually, I've made nine videos in row - "Time for Me to Fly" is not part of the countdown, unfortunately, since I came up with the concept a day later. More work for me!

I don't know how many aspects of life can be compared to buying shoes, but it happened to me again: I fell in shoe love. Completely unexpected, completely impractical, and completely fine with me. Be it finding a boyfriend, a job, or a pair of shoes (what else is there, really?), it's always the same. The more you look, the less you find. There I was, in Frankfurt's snazzy new shopping center, when upon descending the escalator I saw the close out sale at a shoe store. I wasn't even there shopping, rather I wanted the yummy noodles that they sell up on the top floor. But what the heck - by the time next New Year's Eve rolls around, I would like a nicer pair of evening wear shoes.

Well, I didn't find elegant black pumps, but I did see this pair of purple suede shoes, 60 % off. I don't have too much money to burn right now, but it was one of those moments. It was shoe love. It's my birthday soon, so there. Hopefully I'll be as open, aware and ready to strike as I was on the day I found my purple shoes when other opportunities show themselves to me. And hopefully that will be soon!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-25, Blister in the Sun

Tonight we may have a chance to see aurorae light up the sky, as the sun spews balls of plasma directly toward the Earth. As much as I'm not necessarily looking forward to turning one year older, being smoldered by a solar loogie was not how I thought I might die. Let's hope the end of the world holds off for a while. I've got quite a nice song in the works for you for tomorrow. Until then, a GBGC Quickie, part of the countdown to 40.

Monday, August 2, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-26, Leuchtturm (Lighthouse)

I came home last night after a rather gruelling weekend of performances to find that I had been named "Beste Nachwuchssängerin" (best up and coming singer) by Die Welt. Sadly, they weren't referring to my Bad Guitar Channel, but I was still happy to hear that all the effort put into being a so-called professional opera singer did not go unnoticed. The commendation for my work as Miss Donnithorne at Theater Mönchengladbach was like a little beacon in the dark night of my soul.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

GBGC Top 40 Countdown: T-27, Casey Jones

Thanks to the Internet making every piece of information available to us, I caught wind of the fact that today, August 1st, would have been Jerry Garcia's birthday. You know, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. That's about the extent of my knowledge of the Grateful Dead. I can name exactly one band member, and exactly one song besides this one ("Truckin'"). Oh, and I've been to a Grateful Dead concert. A classmate of mine from NAU head an extra ticket, so I headed off with two of his friends in a red mustang convertible, heading north from Flagstaff to Las Vegas the night before the concert. I'll spare you the horrific details of the trip, as it were, and won't elaborate on the effects of mind-altering drugs (read about it in my memoirs), but I will say that it was a shame they wore off before the concert began the next day. The bright lights and loud carpets of Las Vegas casinos are way too much to handle with drugs, but a Grateful Dead concert is unbearably boring without them, so make sure you bring enough for the whole trip. You see, it's valuable pieces of advice like this that should make you want to follow my blog, and not some washed up hippy band.