Mad Teddy's musical adventures

Mad Teddy's web-pages

Various musical adventures

Mad Teddy leads the singing

(Love the socks )

When I was at high school in the late 1960's, a friend taught me a few guitar chords - enough to be able to strum along to some of the hit-songs of the era. I bought a chord chart from a local music shop and taught myself a lot more; I found that I had a good ear for harmony and could quite quickly work out the chords for most of the songs that interested me.

This gave me the ability to drive some people nuts. My sister would sit at the piano and try to figure out the harmonies for some tune or other, not always with total success. When I heard a dodgy chord, I'd yell out from my bedroom: "G minor sixth!", "A augmented!", "C diminished!", or perhaps "F sharp seventh!" - and sure enough, she'd play the bit again with the suggested chord, and it would sound fine. There'd be a slight pause, then she'd bellow across the house: "I can't bear it - he's ALWAYS RIGHT!"

So, when I first started playing around with Noteworthy Composer, it was no big deal for me type in a tune I knew - or load a midi file I'd grabbed from the net - and harmonize it by adding some more parts, using various instruments available via the sound card (an AWE 32 Sound Blaster). Great fun! Useful, too; I was able to produce arrangements for my wife (flute), my kids (violin and cello), and myself (guitar accompaniment). We actually performed a few pieces in public some years back, including my arrangements of "Old Man River" and the Frankie Laine theme-song from "Blazing Saddles"!

Over the next few years, I created chamber-music style arrangements for John Lennon's "In My Life", Paul McCartney's "Mull of Kintyre" - even Mars Bonfire's "Born to Be Wild" (Steppenwolf's legendary hit) and the Cream standard "Sweet Wine", among other rock songs - as well as arrangements of short "classical" pieces for our little family group including Franz Schubert's "Stšndchen" (Serenade) and Jacques Offenbach's "Barcarolle".

Just while I think of it - if you're a fan of Steppenwolf, visit John Kay's site dedicated to the band here. Also, click here to read a fascinating interview with the man.

Formed in the late 1960's, US band Steppenwolf were (and still are, I believe!) a hard-rocking outfit. The lyrics of many of their songs are quite beautiful, and deserve to be read as poetry in their own right. Have a good look around the site and read some of them. No death-metal misery, this - these songs are inspiring. Classic examples are "Magic Carpet Ride" (the lyrics will make you chuckle), "Rock Me", and (especially) "It's Never Too Late".

UPDATE, Tuesday 21st July, 2009

What better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "one small step for man..." than to add links to videos of these wonderful songs from that incredible era, as I've just done. (The "It's Never Too Late" video is a real heart-stopper; have a tissue handy.) Enjoy...

UPDATE, Tuesday 12th October, 2010

What a pity - that lovely video of "It's Never Too Late" has disappeared from YouTube, apparently for legal reasons. Never mind - you can click here to visit a web-page which has another YouTube video of the song embedded within it, along with the lyrics, so that you can follow them if you wish.

Similarly, the above link for "Magic Carpet Ride" has also disappeared, apparently for much the same reason! - but again, this page contains the somewhat wry lyrics, along with an alternative YouTube video.

UPDATE, Wednesday 18th May, 2011

I'm delighted to be able to report that my favourite YouTube video of "It's Never Too Late" has made a comeback! Goodness knows how long it will stay there this time; but for as long as it does, here's the link.

Also, a somewhat weird angle on "Magic Carpet Ride": there's now a very cute version of the song by a girl group called the KSM. Depsite myself, I find that I really like it, even though it may be seen as a bit corny! Here's the link to a YouTube video with all the lyrics (slightly altered from the original). Might make you smile (I wonder what John Kay makes of it, if he's heard it? ).

One Steppenwolf song, "Monster", I've never heard - as far as I know. Penned at the height of the Vietnam war, the lyrics pack a punch, and are just as apt now as they were a third of a century ago - perhaps even more so.

21st July 2009: I've heard it now. Here's a link to a YouTube video. Can it really be that things have finally begun to change over the last few months, in Western countries at least? Hoping...

Cream, also mentioned above, were a British band from that same heady era. Often referred to as "the original power trio", Cream featured Eric Clapton (guitar), Jack Bruce (bass) and Peter ("Ginger") Baker (drums). On several of their recordings, they were joined by producer Felix Pappalardi, who added a unique touch of colour and inspiration playing a wide range of instruments; and on some occasions, they were joined by Eric's close friend, Beatle George Harrison.

Like Steppenwolf, they were a heavy group; and, like those of Steppenwolf, the lyrics of many of their songs could make you catch your breath. Unlike those of Steppenwolf, however, Cream's more whimsical lyrics may not have been political, but they were no less thought-provoking. The song "Sweet Wine", in common with many of their other offerings, expressed a desire for a simpler, gentler world. (Click here for a YouTube video. Eric's lead guitar work on this track has been described as "incendiary". "Money, nothing funny, wasting the best of our lives..." - YEAH!!!)

To read more about this wonderful band, click here to see a page with more about "Sweet Wine", and their first album "Fresh Cream" on which it was featured. Then follow the links within that page to see the whole excellent site and thus get a fuller picture of the group.

Okay - on to some of my own musical musings, starting with arrangements of pieces by other composers:

The first item on the menu below is my slightly disrespectful version of a piece by J.S.Bach; the second is a (quite sensible) arrangement of W.A.Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus"; and the third is my tribute to Schubert's "Stšndchen". The fourth is my very simple adaptation of Offenbach's "Barcarolle".

It wasn't very long, however, before I became frustrated with simply arranging pre-existing pieces. What I really wanted to do was compose some original stuff of my own - but inspiration wouldn't come. I had no idea of how to start. But then odd things began to happen.

Occasionally, in the late 1970's and early '80's, I'd had dreams with "background music". I'd wake up with a snatch of music in my head, and realize that it had actually played a part in my dream.

This began to happen again in earnest once I started playing around with Noteworthy Composer. Sometimes, I'd doze off on the settee next to the computer and have some stupid dream or other which had a musical accompaniment running around in the background. I'd wake up with the tune still in my head, immediately get myself in front of the computer, and type it in before I forgot it. A good job too; notoriously, the details of dreams are soon forgotten on waking. There were occasions on which I'd come back to the computer later and be quite surprised at what I'd managed to salvage from a stunned semi-wakeful state hours earlier.

(The melody for my song "The Loan Sharks", which you will find elsewhere in this website, is actually the result of combining the background music from two quite different dreams on separate occasions, days apart.)

The fifth offering below, "Microwave Coffee", is an example of one such incident.

Can a person really claim ownership of a piece of music which arises during sleep? Or is there a "higher force" at work with the sleeper simply acting as a passive recipient?

Well, I once heard Arlo Guthrie (in a 1984 concert in Sydney, broadcast on ABC-FM) relate a similar situation in his own experience regarding his own song "Darkest Hour". His approach was that it was his dream, so it was his song! Sounds reasonable to me. Update, 26th December 2008 (Boxing Day!): Click here to see and hear a YouTube video of the man singing this song.

Even so, I really wanted to be a genuine composer, with a much more active rŰle in the production of new music. Sure, there probably needs to be some basic inspiration (much as in poetry), but with the artist "fleshing out" the details and adding further original material. It didn't seem to be happening.

Then, one day, one of my kids (about nine years old at the time) was wandering around the house humming a tune, as little kids are wont to do, and just happened to hit three notes - and suddenly, an entire tune jumped into my mind pretty much fully-formed. I rushed over to the computer and banged the melody into Noteworthy; in short order I'd added two more parts and produced my first original composition. What a buzz!

The sixth item below is the result of this flash of inspiration - a piece which I named "Classical Rag".

Having done it once, and having thus experienced the process occurring, I began to produce other originals. There have been occasions, however, when I've taken an even more proactive approach to composing. One way is to just fiddle around on whatever instrument one is able to play reasonably well - guitar, in my case - and see what pops up. Once the germ of an idea is there, it's possible to flesh it out into something more substantial.

The seventh item, "March of the Spooks", was produced in such a manner.



Variation on J.S.Bach's Three-Part Invention No.2 in C minor, BWV 788

Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus"

Schubert's "Stšndchen"

Offenbach's "Barcarolle"

Microwave Coffee

Classical Rag

March of the Spooks

Perhaps you've arrived here as a result of a search for a midi arrangement of a piece you know. If so, I hope that what you find here is of some use to you - and I also hope that you like some of my own original compositions.

There's room for humour in music; I've tapped into that in some of my pieces. But if you'd like to see a web-page which majors on the funny side of things musical, may I suggest that you visit this website - and be prepared for a big surprise!

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