Introducing: Tim Totani...

Tim Totani is a singer and songwriter from McAlester, Oklahoma. His style is in the country/rock tradition of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, and his new EP Back Home was released just last month. We’d like to thank Mr. Totani for taking a few minutes to answer some questions for us here at Musebreak. Musebreak: First of all, tell us a little about yourself. What is your musical background? How did you get started? Tim Totani: I grew up around music from my mom singing to me as a little boy to watching the band play at church. But I didn’t get started playing until junior high school where my music director John Wilcox influenced my passion for playing the most. MB: I’m assuming you play guitar. Do you play any other instruments? What models do you use, and what’s your favorite? TT: I do play guitar, and I’ve played many instruments such as violin, cello, mandolin, bass, drums, and piano. Recently, piano is probably my favorite. I play a Taylor acoustic guitar. MB: What is your process for writing a song? What comes first, the lyrics or the music? TT: When writing a song the process varies. Some days I have lyrics that pop in my head first that I write music for, and other time the music comes first. MB: I mentioned Seger and Mellencamp in the intro, which to my ear are the most stylistically similar acts to your work. What do you consider the most similar? What musicians do you go to for inspiration? TT: I have been compared to Brantley Gilbert on many occasions, and I could see that. And I listen to a lot of artist for inspiration such as Brantley, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Eli Young...

The Gift of Art Nov24

The Gift of Art

Thanksgiving is near and after its festive celebration with the family, comes the horrible onslaught of pressure to buy gifts for the Christmas holiday. Ads on television, radio and the web tell us of the savings we’ll have if we buy wares from this store or that. “Spend, spend, spend!” is the holiday jingle that echoes like an earworm in my head and it makes me wonder, if my generation is the last to recall a time when gifts for the holidays were hand-made instead of purchased; a custom that seems to have slowly died away. Holidays were a simpler time. People purchased art or crafts for their loved ones if they didn’t make the items themselves. Craft fairs were abundant after Thanksgiving, people selling one-of-a-kind, hand-made items. I recall spending afternoons, walking the fair, eating holiday cookies and drinking eggnog or cider and looking for special gifts for family and friends. Now, there’s hardly a craft fair to be found; another custom that has gradually become extinct. People don’t want hand-made items. They want electronics and designer names; products that are mass-produced in countries where slave-labor is cheap and the profit margins are high. They’re not interested in one-of-a-kind items, lovingly created especially for them. Or are they? Is this just an illusion created by marketeers to get people to shop ‘til they drop each year? Every time I’ve ever given my art or a hand-crafted item, I’ve had great response. Not only was the receiver delighted with the item, but those around asked if they could have one as well. The holidays have, and will always be a time when I make gifts for those I love. As an artist, this is a no-brainer. But if I weren’t talented in this area,...

The Evolution of an Instrument: The French Horn Aug11

The Evolution of an Instrument: The French Horn...

It’s been suggested that one of the things we could look at in Musebreak’s music articles is the evolution of instruments. Good idea. So let’s start with the one I know best: the horn. Most people (in America anyway) know this instrument as the French horn. However, the instrument is primarily German in origin. Therefore its official name is simply “horn”. The instrument traces its origin all the way back to the “shofar” horns of the Middle East, horns made of actual animal horns. The early metal horns were much simpler than what they would become later; little more than a length of metal tubing with a small flared bell on the end. The design quickly gained a large loop to make it easy to carry on horseback. This was important due to their use as a means of calling the dogs during hunting. These instruments had no valves, and a limited number of pitches available. Like bugles, these horns were limited to what is called the “harmonic series”, a set of notes that can be made by adjusting the speed of the air and the tightness of the lips. (The word for lip tightness is “embouchure”.) When composers started using these instruments in their works in the late Baroque era (around the early 18th century), it was largely to invoke the feeling of outdoor activities like hunting. Soon it was used as more of a fanfare instrument. Since the musical works were written in various keys, you couldn’t just stick any old horn in your orchestra; it had to be pitched in such a way that its harmonic series would fit in with the key of the piece. To that end, horns were made to have sections that could be removed and replaced...

Show Your Appreciation for Art Aug11

Show Your Appreciation for Art...

Most of us know a musician. We may even know someone who writes, or have a friend who creates artwork of some type. We don’t generally think of them as artists though. Bob may work at the factory and play drums in his band in the evenings. Sarah is a tour guide for a museum even though her artwork could be hanging on the very walls where she works. Sam writes his novel at home, working at the local coffee shop each morning to earn a living while he waits for his latest work to become a best seller. When we think of these friends, we generally associate them with the job that pays the bills. There are very few artists who can actually live off of what they earn by creating. Some would argue that’s because they’re not good enough artists, but I disagree. From what I’ve seen, their work is exceptional,  just not well-known, or maybe well-valued is a better term, by the masses. The only difference I would say is that those who are more famous, have better marketing people helping them succeed at their chosen career. And for that they pay a percentage to their agent, or publicist or manager, because… people do not work for free. And yet, many seem to think that artists should have to struggle financially for their art. Everyone knows the phrase “starving artist” yet no one seems to think it odd that artists have to work more than one job just to survive. Surely it can’t be because their work is mediocre, because I’ve known many a mediocre waitress, plumber, or lawyer and they seem to only need one job. What is it, as a culture that makes us not value art? Is it...

A World Without The Arts Aug04

A World Without The Arts...

Try to imagine if you will, a world without art. No music, no theater, no books to read other than those that teach you math and science. Your walls are blank; nothing hangs in your home to stimulate your visual senses other than possibly a clock to tell time or a certificate saying you’re accomplished at some task. Every building looks the same, made from the same mold, as architecture is mainly for function, form has no consideration. Every car looks the same; every piece of clothing, utilitarian. The world lacks imagination, for creativity has been starved out of existence. I for one, find this imagining an unpleasant task to accomplish. The thought is so repulsive that my imagination rebels and I find myself not wanting to venture down that path. For weeks now, I’ve been trying to write a fictional story on just this topic, but the words will not form. In the telling of this story, I wanted people to discover just how important the Arts are to humanity. Every day, we take for granted the creative stimulus that helps us become more interesting, more inventive, more diverse people and yet every day, we lose the very incentive that nurtures our creativity. It’s the first thing that’s cut in school programs when the budgets are overtaxed. Art, music, theater; they are expendable, those in power say. But are they? How inventive would this world be without creativity? To quote Albert Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”  But where would imagination be without the creative forces that stimulate it? Would it wither and die, leaving us a world so drab and boring that nothing would inspire us to create? Would we only be able to...

Magic in the Dark Aug04

Magic in the Dark

It’s a story I’ve told many times, but it seems appropriate to this web publication to trot it out once more. Late summer – 1981: I was a high school junior taking part in band camp for the third time. We had learned the music for that year’s marching show, and were on the practice field learning the “drill”, i.e. the marching movements that go with the music. It was a hot day, and my band mates and I were happy to see a thunderstorm on the horizon heading our way. As it neared we could see there was a lot of electrical activity in it, so shortly before it became dangerous Mr. Thompson, our band director, gave the word to head indoors. We had barely made it inside our windowless band room when we heard the heavy rain and thunder pummeling the roof. Not wanting to waste the time we had left on our practice for the day, Mr. Thompson dismissed the percussion to a different part of the building to work on their music, and had us wind players form a large circle in the band room. While we faced each other, our field commander counted us off and we started playing the first song in our show. Before we had gone halfway through the tune, the power cut out and we found ourselves playing in pitch darkness. A few members dropped out expecting us to stop, but when no word to stop came from our field commander or Mr. Thompson we all continued playing without missing a beat. That’s when it happened. Our music, well memorized by this point, took on its own life. With no visual distractions, we were totally focused on how it sounded. It sounded better and better...

Know Your Audience Jul21

Know Your Audience

My musician friends like to trot out a YouTube video every once in a while that shows violinist Joshua Bell playing “street musician” at a metro stop in Washington, DC. He received almost no attention at all, despite being one of the country’s best violinists. My friends usually present it as a demonstration of how little people care about quality music and quality performers. I like to add the comment: “The real lesson here? Know your audience.” I find it annoying when artists, any artist, assume the world revolves around them, or that everyone should enjoy exactly the same thing that they themselves enjoy. Theoretical physicists don’t assume everyone has a functional understanding of string theory. Electrical engineers don’t assume everyone knows what goes into designing a computer’s motherboard. Why should we be surprised when people moving quickly through a station in a major American city during rush hour don’t take the time to appreciate the intricacies of a virtuoso performer playing the works of J. S. Bach? Many people like to refer to music as being the “universal language”. This may be so, but any artist needs to understand that the effectiveness of the ideas and “vocabulary” one uses will vary depending on who is listening/looking/reading what they are presenting. One of my favorite writers is Harlan Ellison. There is something I’ve noticed when reading his work; his writing becomes much more complex when he’s writing a column or essay than when he writes fiction. He knows that his target audience is very different, and he tailors what he’s writing to fit who he expects to be reading it. The way this translates into music can be very obvious. However, among serious musicians it becomes a discussion of “good” music versus “bad” music....

Rally ‘Round the Piano! Jul15

Rally ‘Round the Piano!...

It’s one of those indelible old-timey images. There’s the family in the parlor, or the hall, or in the living room, gathered around the family upright piano. One of them, usually the mother, is sitting and playing. One of the family members might have a fiddle playing along. And everyone else is singing along, smiling broadly. Granted it may be an exaggeration of the “good old days”, but in the time before TV and radio and even phonographs there was a tendency for at least one family member to be an amateur musician. If they were wealthy, they might have a grand piano and all the children would be required to take lessons. As the social status dropped, the instruments would become more compact and cheaper; violins, guitars, banjos, ukuleles. If the group were large enough, you may get some brass players and woodwind players. And of course, everyone could sing, frequently in harmony, at least a little bit; even if it were just songs from the church hymnal. In the days before mp3 players, and CD players, and cassette players, and on and on, if a family wanted music in their house they typically had to supply it themselves. The wealthy paid for their children to be taught music. The poor would sit their kids down and teach them what they knew. But come what may, music was part of everyone’s life even if it wasn’t being pumped straight down their ear canals with a pair of iPod earbuds. It’s tempting to go into rant-mode on topics like this, and ascribe the decline of musicianship among the masses to laziness. I don’t know that that is a fair assessment. First there’s the immense amount of things that a person or family can do...

Stirring the Pot Jul08

Stirring the Pot

I was reading up on one of my favorite icons of nostalgia recently, Schoolhouse Rock. For those not familiar with it, it was a series of short cartoons shown during commercial breaks during Saturday morning cartoons. They were all educational in nature, starting with the basics of grammar and then delving into multiplication tables. Eventually, they included science and American history, and much later basic finance, and  a spin-off on computers. Each one covered its topic with a specially written pop song and animation. If you’ve heard of “Conjunction Junction”, “I’m Just a Bill”, or “Interplanet Janet”, this is where they came from. I was dumbfounded when I read that one of the modern criticisms about the series is that most of the songs aren’t actually “rock”. They explained that some are jazz, others are R&B, and still others are folk music. Then I understood that younger generations don’t understand that there was a time that all these and many other types of music were all grouped together under the umbrella of “rock music”. In the 60s through the early 80s, anything that was even remotely pop music considered itself rock. Rock radio stations could be expected to play anything from AC/DC to Vangelis to The Manhattan Transfer to Ronnie Milsap. I suppose it was inevitable that by the mid 80s the range of musical styles would cause the whole genre to fragment, and while some acts tried to bridge the widening gaps (like ZZ Top with the ill-conceived “Velcro Fly” music video) inevitably the public’s tastes became so polarized that almost no one identified themselves as rock fans anymore. Even the later Schoolhouse Rock shorts abandoned any pretense of being rock in any way. It should come as no surprise that all this...

Introducing: The Dick Peddicord Band...

My first memories of Dick Peddicord are from 1967, when I fell in with his band of gypsies which became known as The American Television Theater Inc., or T.A.T.T.I.  It was a raggle-taggle band, with several drummers, several bass players, and a small army of guitar players.  We soon became known as the band that changed at every performance, since our lineup was constantly morphing, and the loudest bunch in normally quiet downtown Davis, California. Later, I played lap steel with Dr. Dick and his Yolo County Road Show, featuring the Whole Earth Angels, a miniature choir of pretty young ladies under Dick’s watchful eye, and the metaphorical baton of choir director Jack May.  That led to some demo tapes, recorded in San Francisco’s China Town at the Roy Chen Recording Studio, which I produced.  Dick was so pleased with the demos that he hired my band, Osgoode, to produce an entire album of his songs in the relatively new 24-track format.  One of the high points of that album was a completely new version of “Oh Pleasant Hope”, which had already been recorded once by Blue Cheer, and became the title song of the album on which it appeared. Together we played in several other short-lived bands, and after a longish hiatus, started making music together again in early 2011.  We’ve been keeping busy with several CDs of the Dick Peddicord Band since then: first, Change Of Heart, then Savannah, then Castaway, and finally another one which has no name as yet, but is over half finished. Dick currently lives in Ashland, Oregon, and works for the U.S. Census Bureau as a field representative. Having retired from college teaching years ago, his time now is spent on music and family. After receiving a...