by Jonathan Mann,
Sometimes I think of the Internet as a gigantic beast with a Sauron eye and a kraken mouth. Every minute of every day, it’s scanning the globe for new content to stuff in its maw. The content churns in its broiling belly as words, images, sounds are digested and assimilated. Then it’s pooped out, never to be seen or heard from or read again.
It’s when I’m in this frame of mind, I wonder: is it worthwhile to add to that churn? By writing and posting a song with a video every day, as I have since January 2009, I sometimes feel as if my tunes are just grist for the beast’s appetite; another piece of content digested and released into the void.
Should I be more selective about what I release into that wild?
When I make something that comes from my heart — even if it’s silly, topical, or off the cuff — there’s always a chance that it helps make a great connection that I could never imagine. I never know when those links will happen, but they have and I know they will continue.
No matter how I feel about a song on a particular day, someone will like it. There is someone, somewhere out in the vast reaches of cyberspace that will get something from it. Even when I’ve written a song that I’m sure is horrible, I hear from someone whose day it’s brightened.
I have an established audience now, but this was true even when I first began, and I could count on the fingers of one or both hands who would see my work. And over seven years of posting work my songs, it happens like clockwork, again and again. This is the true nature of the Internet.
The song is a parody of the Magnetic Fields tune “Andrew In Drag.” In the original song, Stephin Merritt sings about how the only woman he’s ever been attracted to is a guy named Andrew, in drag. My parody was that the only man I’d ever want to have sex with is Stephin Merritt (one of my all time favorite songwriters).
Now, that’s love. Great song. I hope you meet him one day, too, Mr. Mann.
And with that, David commented on my Song A Day project just about every day. Whatever the song’s topic or scope, he’d have something to say. His comments were so thoughtful and kind, always pointing out some aspect of the song that moved him or made him think. Sometimes, they were flirty, which I thought was cute. And he had the endearing habit of calling me “Mr. Mann.”
As time went on, I got to know him a little better through his comments and the occasional personal message. I learned that he had polycystic kidney disease, and that his mom had had it too, but she had gotten a transplant. I learned that he was homebound, but had loved traveling when he was younger. He yearned to travel again.
At some point, as he was preparing for a series of surgeries that was leading towards a kidney transplant, he requested a song:
I was thinking about a hopeful ditty about a guy on a journey, who all along the way has a happy, cheerful genie (you) who visits him daily via a special avenue/device (YouTube) to cheer him along his way with tales and tunes of any and all sorts, which the adventurer finds very spirit-lifting, and encouraging.
I wrote him this song.
Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, said this about friendship:
As [you] experience certain sensory input patterns, [your] mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even missed when absent.
I anticipated and looked forward to David Lee Beebe, Jr.’s comments. When they stopped, there was something missing; I felt a hole in my heart. Eventually, I received news from a friend of his that his health was seriously declining. And then came the news that he had passed away.
I wrote him another song.
After writing and posting that song, I found out that Beeblmeyer (as he was known around the internet) had forged many friendships that existed solely in cyberspace. He was a well-known commenter on the site Joe.My.God, and when Joe posted about his death, there was an absolute outpouring of grief. Most of these people had never met David in person either, but they all considered him a friend and an inspiration.
David Lee Beebe, Jr., let me know in so many ways that his life was richer because of my music, and I’m so grateful to him. My life is richer for having known him. I strive to be like Mr. Beebe: to be kind, forging relationships online, and sharing myself with abandon.
It’s the reason I post my song every day. It’s the reason I keep going.
A massive treat for Jethro Tull fans and classical aficionados alike: Jethro Tull The String Quartets is an album of classic Jethro Tull repertoire, imaginatively arranged by John O’Hara for the Carducci string quartet with the flute, guitar and vocals of songwriter and producer IAN ANDERSON, is out now through BMG.
Listen to Loco (Locomotive Breath) from the album here:
For some time, Ian (Jethro Tull frontman and virtuoso flautist) and John O’Hara (keyboard player with Tull and Anderson) had discussed the prospect of a specially conceived album of classic Jethro Tull repertoire orchestrated for a string quartet. Ian & John first saw the Carducci Quartet at the London Symphony Orchestra’s LSO St Luke’s and, mesmerised by the group’s symbiotic relationship which results in their playing as one single musical organism, Ian invited them to take part in the recording. The Carducci Quartet are:
Matthew Denton Violin
Michelle Fleming Violin
Eoin Schmidt-Martin Viola
Emma Denton Cello
Two violins, a viola and a cello make up that perfect combination of instruments that is the string quartet. Composers such as Beethoven, Bartók and Britten have written for it, and Anderson’s music is reborn in this format. With judicious additions of flute, acoustic guitar and mandolin along with a few vocal sections, this album offers Tull fans the opportunity to enjoy familiar melodies and songs within the styling and traditions of Classical Music.
Ian, who is no stranger to working with orchestras, says: “John and I have worked on various orchestrations and performed many orchestral concerts over the last fifteen years. So, a couple of years ago, I came up with the idea of recording a dedicated string quartet album in a contemporary but “Classical” setting with brief appearances from myself. I felt that there were some songs rather special to me which featured the string quartet such as A Christmas Song, Reasons For Waiting and Wond’ring Aloud. These were my first experiences of working with a quartet. John came up with a few suggestions of his own which presented challenges. All had an intimacy and presence which I looked forward to recapturing in the cosy and very personal space of my office desk where I did the overdubs.”
About his approach to the orchestration, John explains, “There seemed little point in transcribing the band parts and distributing them to the players. I felt a responsibility to delve deeper and offer a new imagining of each piece. An orchestrator’s job is to arrange and compose a new version of an existing work. However, I also felt a responsibility to the Jethro Tull listeners who cherish this material and may not welcome a radical rendition of a beloved song. My ambition was to create a thought-provoking album that remains true to Ian’s compositions.”
Ian concludes, “It has really been a lot of fun to work on this project. The Carducci Quartet provided a spirited and committed performance, without which all would have been futile. And, I only had to pay for lunch once as they brought sandwiches. Bless.”
After poring over the entire Tull catalogue, Ian & John decided on the following selection of songs. Different from the original recordings, Ian has given some new cryptic titles.
In The Past (Living In The Past) Stand Up
Sossity Waiting (Sossity: You’re a Woman/Reasons For Waiting) Stand Up/Benefit
Bungle (Bungle In The Jungle) Warchild
We Used To Bach (We Used to Know/Bach Prelude C Major) Stand Up
Farm, The Fourway (Farm On The Freeway) Crest of A Knave
Songs and Horses (Songs From The Wood/Heavy Horses) (Album title tracks)
Only The Giving (Wond’ring Aloud) Aqualung
Loco (Locomotive Breath) Aqualung
Pass The Bottle (A Christmas Song) Living In The Past
Velvet Gold (Velvet Green) Songs From The Wood
Ring Out These Bells (Ring Out, Solstice Bells) Songs From The Wood
Aquafugue (Aqualung) Aqualung
The guitar-wizard behind (arguably) prog’s greatest music, in conversation
2017 Tour Dates
Wed 26th Dublin, Vicar Street
Fri 28th Cardiff, St. David’s Hall
Sun 30th Reading, Hexagon
Mon 1st Birmingham, Symphony Hall
Wed 3rd Sheffield, City Hall
Thurs 4th Bristol, Colston Hall
Fri 5th Manchester, Bridgewater Hall
Sun 7th Liverpool, Philharmonic
Mon 8th Portsmouth, Guildhall
Wed 10th Southend, Cliffs Pavilion
Thurs 11th Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall
Sat 13th Oxford, New Theatre
Sun 14th Cambridge, Corn Exchange
Tues16th Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall
Wed17th Sage, Gateshead
Fri 19th London, Palladium