My name is Matt, and I’m a musician and programmer/developer/geek. On the interwebs I sometimes go by Mr. Kellison. I think in order to provide the most fulfilling experience an About page can offer, I will present the rest of my information in a fake FAQ format. And when I say “fake”, I mean the questions, not the answers. Enjoy.
Who are you?
“Magical Yeti”? WTF?
One of the many joys of being a parent is that kids can be pretty entertaining. I had been trying to think of a name for my blog for a while, and not making much headway. One day I was watching TV when one of my kids came in the room and started doing some sort of strange Tai chi-type movements. Eventually I had to ask, “What in the world are you doing?”. Her reply: “I’m floating like a magical yeti.” I kid you not. After I stopped laughing I realized that it was just bizarre enough to make a great blog name.
The yeti thing is also an old inside joke between me and my brother. His Twitter handle is @PotomacYeti for a reason. When he has long hair and hasn’t groomed himself for a while, he does indeed resemble the mythical beast.
Is that a true story?
Yes, yes it is.
OK…moving on. Music and code/programming, that’s a bit of an odd combination.
Not as much as it seems on the surface. There are actually lots of us out there. Music and code can be quite similar, especially if you delve into music theory at all. I have found that both endeavors offer an almost perfect mix of right-brain and left-brain activity. In music, the right-brain stuff is of course the creativity, the melody, the inspiration; the left-brain part is the theory, the harmony, the structure that makes it all work. In programming, the left-brain is more obvious: design patterns and architecture, mathematical permutations. But the right-brain part is not just the user interface design, but also the creativity and inspiration that comes in creating a well-designed, performant, reusable application. A well-written application and a well-written piece of music are similar beasts of beauty and elegance.
So what are all the “Great…” collections about?
I am a big fan of Roger Ebert’s website. For anyone who loves movies, it is a treasure trove of reviews and criticism and writings dating back to the late 1960s. In my opinion the most valuable are his Great Movies essays. It started out as a way for him to review some classic movies that he never had a chance to review because they were released before he became a critic. But what I love about the Great Movies collection is that it is not solely populated by ancient silent films and 9-hour-long French New Wave art films, but also by more recent films that have also achieved the same levels of greatness. For every Au Revoir, les Enfants and Stroszek, there are Raiders of the Lost Ark and This Is Spinal Tap. In other words, it’s not stuffy and pretentious – it’s an honest collection of great movies.
The other thing I love about Ebert’s Great Movies collection is that it’s not a list. There’s none of the “this one is better than that one” nonsense that goes along with naming the Top 100 whatever of all time. The point is not to compare (which is meaningless when discussing any art form anyway); the point is to enlighten and inform.
Anyway, I always thought that there should be a similar sort of collection for music. So I had the idea for a Great Songs collection. But that didn’t seem like enough; some songs are just average as a whole but feature a great solo. Some songs are OK on their own, but when heard in the context of an album they become great. And then what about live performances? So I created the four collections we have today: Great Songs, Great Solos, Great Albums, and Great Performances.
Great Songs: there are many factors that can make a song great: a great lyric, a great melody, a great recording or production, a great groove, etc. These are the songs that, as Jeff Beck says, “make you go sideways” when you hear them. The first Great Songs essay is on Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.
Great Solos: as a musician, I have a great affinity for instrumental solos. Mrs. Kellison likes to say that before she met me, she always thought the solo was just filler material so the vocalist could take a break. Sadly, in many cases she’s right. While I do think that overall a solo takes a backseat to the song, I think a great solo can elevate a song to another level. Put another way, a mediocre solo cannot undo a great song, but a great solo can turn a good song into a great one. My first Great Solos essay is on Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun.
Great Albums: when I was studying music, and well into my years as a working musician, one of my favorite pastimes was to buy a CD, take it home, put it on my stereo, and listen to it all the way through in one sitting. I couldn’t do it often, but it was such a joy to be able to do that. Today, in the iTunes era, it seems albums are a dying breed, at least in rock and pop music. But I still believe that the album is a viable, and essential, art form. My first Great Albums essay is on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
Great Performances: this is a section set aside for live performances. YouTube is pretty much essential to this collection. There are so many incredible live performances out there, captured on concert DVDs, TV appearances, radio appearances, etc. And today’s technology (YouTube in particular) has made it possible for so many people to get inspired by these performances. My first Great Performances essay is on Wes Montgomery’s Live in ’65 DVD.
Will your “Great” collections include all forms of music?
One of the few dismaying things about music is that there is just so much of it in the world, so many different forms, that one person can never listen to it all. Not even a small fraction of it. In my life I have been lucky to be exposed to many different forms of music, but certainly not all, and I certainly can’t call myself an expert on all forms. So, to answer the question…I’d love for them to include all types of music, but realistically they won’t, at least for a while. My expertise is in rock, blues, pop, and jazz. There is plenty of great music in those genres to keep me busy for a long time. Forms such as country, rap/hip-hop, R & B, reggae, and classical are on my radar but I don’t listen to them often enough. The myriad forms of international music even less so.
My hope is that from time to time I can bring in a guest blogger who is an expert in one of those genres where I am lacking knowledge. If anyone out there wants to participate please let me know. I have some ideas. We shall see.
What’s with all the Amazon.com links at the bottom of the “Great …” essays?
I am a member of the Amazon Associates program. If you click one of the links from my site, add the product to your cart, and then buy it, I get a very (very) small percentage of the cost. The money goes toward maintaining this site. And maybe getting a slice of pizza for lunch every now and then.