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Archive for June 5th, 2017

Chapter Three

A new sci-fi book, out soon, at the end…

Antarctica: a lost land hiding frozen secrets, and a mystery that endures the test of time.

Anchored in a small bay off Marie Byrd Land, HMS Deceptor tugged at its sea anchor and rolled with the backwash from surrounding glacial walls.  Re-fitted at Portsmouth, Deceptor’s large radar dish augmented the Sea Viper air-defense system and SAMPSON multi-function radar, adding capacity for scientific and military missions.  The S1850M-3D long-range air surveillance radar could track up to 1,000 supersonic targets simultaneously.  Outfitted for a long mission, the ship could stay on station and provide necessary support for whatever might turn up.  Given the unknown nature of Antarctica’s recently discovered tunnel systems, the echoes of previous expeditions suggested many mysterious possibilities, and proposed equally strange sources for the bizarre and ineffable tales that were now part of Antarctica’s inexplicable past.  The 1943 WW II British sailor’s description of “Polar Men” had astounded intelligence at the time, but when confirmed a decade ago by American sources, it became classified beyond Top Secret.  Recent events heightened previously suppressed information and supported theories that were both strange and incomprehensible.  Survivors of Atlantis or some antediluvian race might explain an unknown race’s existence, but everything was pure speculation.  Ultimately, the rendezvous with England’s satellite was the main part of the mission…the rest was left to chance and circumstance, in case Antarctica showed what it was hiding.

Deep in the bowels of the ship, Theo Darby hung up the phone and closed his losing game of Texas hold-em poker.  Walking over to his partner, Chuck Arrington, borrowed from his father’s complex computer lab, he saw him scribbling in a spiral-ring notebook.  Theo asked, “What’s that…your secret autobiography?”

Chuck looked up with a patient smile.  “Oh yea of little faith… oh sing on my muse… ignore these Earthly morons corrupting and interrupting the purity of purely inspired creativity.”

Theo snickered…Chuck was always good for a few quips and one-liners.  “Sorry to intrude upon such lofty thoughts, oh great one, but our masters with money require our services.”  Noting the extensive lines of small but neat handwriting Chuck created, his curiosity was piqued: “Seriously dude, I’ve been on the computer ever since our lives and the ship were acutely in peril.  What is that…are you apologizing for the endless lies you prayed while we were in jeopardy of sinking?  Reminds me of a movie where this 15-year old kid got a job with the Rolling Stone, and was on a plane with this supposedly famous band…the plane spiraled out of control, and the group started confessing all kinds of crap…admitted who slept with whose girlfriend and other juicy tidbits.  The magazine printed it all, but the band denied it and made him look like a lying fool.  So, what secrets are you sharing with the world?”

Chuck gave him a serious stare, squared his shoulders, and adopted an academic tone: “Anecdotes on life…some samples of proper English…you know commas, grammar, and correct diction…a few verbs here, some adjectives there…it’s called writing.”

Theo smiled and replied, “How supercilious…is that a journal or something?   Since when did the literary bug hit you…did that scary ride release the scribbler in you, or are you hoping to be some tabloid first page?”

Theo got a quick guffaw.  Still using his professorial voice, Chuck said, “A sentence can take many forms…many arrangements; but, it usually only has one meaning.  Therefore, I am sharing my vast wisdom with the world, something I will expound upon in my next blog.”

Theo broke out laughing.  Giving Chuck a mock serious look, he replied in his own huffy voice; “Pardon me, oh wise one, I forgot about those annoying posts you take such pride in.  The problem with saying anything clever on the Internet is worthless…people don’t assume you wrote the post…they know how easy it is to look up catchy aphorisms of old, paraphrase them, and use them as your own.”

Chuck put his hand across his heart and said, “They still call that plagiarism you know…I’m sure the word must have come up after you handed in a remotely intelligent paper.”

Still smiling, Theo said, “Oh, you wound me to the quick…do you hone your sarcasm, or does it just come naturally…anyway, Shears called and said we’re in position.  It’s time to get that tracking gear active and get Deceiver on the line.”

Looking at his watch, he said, “And be snappy my man, we only have fifteen minutes before the perfect line of sight.  We didn’t sail through hell so you could update your blog or see penguins.  Get the dish aligned, and start the tracking software.”  Theo turned and went back to his station.  He had the data to control the on-board cameras on a flash drive; he only needed to boot the program and let it do all the work.

While Chuck aimed the dish, he fished around for the small drive.  He’d lost enough to form one massive hard drive, and previously tried that excuse at Oxford to cover a missing paper.  His arrogant and highbrow professor chortled, deigning to share the school’s policy; “At Oxford, the birthplace of honest gentlemen and scholars alike, we have been forced to compile a list of the most bizarre excuses for missing papers.  My personal favorite was a bomb blew apart an apartment during the Blitz, destroying the student’s paper, or having a paper get mixed up with bills of lading, thereby placing it on a tramp steamer on its way to China.  I see our modern age had conspired once again to offer even more ludicrous excuses.  Over my long and august teaching career, I often dream that just once, in all honesty and good manners, a student would rise to the occasion and be open and honest enough to merely state, ‘I’m sorry professor, I do not have your paper.  Due to my heavy workload, I was not inclined to finish it on time.’”

Theo remembered that encounter like yesterday, and was upset because the truth didn’t work.  He should have listened to his room-mate and lied…saying it was on a laptop that got stolen…a trite but popular excuse that almost every professor heard multiple times.   When sharing the incident, his father gave him some sage advice: “When the truth is inadequate, embellish, and improvise…if you retain part of the truth, it’s not entirely a lie.  If you honestly believe it’s not a lie, it’s not a lie.  But never tell anyone you elaborated the circumstances.  In political circles, I’ve had exemplary liars hold my eye and lie to my face.  I already knew the truth; only one ever apologized, and I never believe anything he says anymore.  Whatever you do, don’t get caught in a lie—your credibility vanishes.”  Theo took that to heart, but would never tell anyone: no one would believe him anymore, a sad consequence for being honest and admitting you twisted the truth…to your advantage.  He found the drive behind his coffee, a substance he always kept carefully away from his expensive computer.  Coffee soaked keyboards stick and suck…he’d ruined quite a few.  Add an expensive built-in trackball, and value escalated, so accountants whined.  The innocent accident excuse doesn’t make accountants happy.

As Theo inserted the stick and opened the UNIX root—Chuck hopped from station to station, calling out, “Deceiver due in ten minutes…make sure that burst transmission is ready to go.”  Deceiver was their private name for the new IR-33 satellite, a marvel equipped with panchromatic, 8-band, multi-spectral cameras that could penetrate the continent’s icy crust using a mix of high-power wavelengths…microwave, infrared, and X-ray.  They took the name from ‘Great Deceiver,’ a song by their favorite Progressive Rock band, King Crimson.

The satellite’s cameras penetrated most obstructions, their images translated into visible colors.   Totally in love with high tech, Chuck doted over the English marvel, studying dense tech manuals, specification charts, and complex studies on the light spectrum and relative wavelengths.  Deceiver was worth the effort.  Beyond state-of-the-art, the 8-band sensors meant each field was narrowly separated to a specific area of the electromagnetic spectrum.  It showed the visible to near infrared and X-ray range…hence the awesome description for a panchromatic, multi-spectral, multi-spatial, Over-bird class of satellite.

Chuck hurried about the lab, flipping switches and turning knobs; the powerful radio antennae atop the ship’s fore superstructure swiveled almost straight up, ready to upload commands to the approaching satellite.  Several minutes later, the satellite was in position, ready to receive directions.

The computer established a two-way link and began processing instructions.  Invisible yet powerful command waves shot into space, activating the satellite’s multi-spectral cameras that would relay precise images at heretofore unknown resolution and accuracy.  Banging his elbow on a sharp corner, Chuck sat down to rub it and curse, his eyes glued to computer simulations that showed a real time picture of the satellite, the ship’s dish and Antarctica’s western slope.  Focused on his throbbing arm, he subconsciously noted a problem far overhead, but pain from the misnamed funny-bone distracted his normally watchful eyes.  A growing red line would soon change the entire mission.

Theo was in the zone: focused and sure of what he was doing, this was what he’d been trained for: adjusting aperture settings, wavelengths, GPS coordinates…all the necessary instructions for the precise cameras aboard Deceiver.  They would have an unprecedented peek under the ice and snow covering the east side of the Transarctic mountain range bisecting the continent.  It was a location of interest, according to his father, Steadman Darby.  Throughout Britain’s classified community, a suggestion by Darby was as good as an order; with an impeccable record, no one questioned his sources or motives.  Those winners were unsullied by failure…a tip from him was like a Royal decree.  As the Royal document examiner, his orders were treated as one and the same.  Darby uncovered more secrets than any archeologist in history, but many of his astounding discoveries were eventually relegated to Top Secret files…solved, but generally forgotten.  It was the part of Darby’s job he loathed; shedding light on ancient secrets was why he searched for the truth.  On the other hand, his sister, Acacia Darby, was England’s most popular gossip columnist and never wasted a good source.  She could read upside down as fast as right side up, a talent Darby discovered after a delicate affair was splashed across the nation’s gossip sheets.  If in his office atop the headquarters for the Farae Group, he quickly learned to hide anything if his sister dropped in.

The Farae Group were intellectual warriors and British counterpart to the covert branches of America’s blackest of black operational networks, including the NSA, CIA and the infamous MIB…Men in Black.  They were in charge of the massive complex left over from WW II; massive underground tunnels allowed them to manufacture during the war, and was now the hiding place of extraterrestrial technology that England had discovered just before the war broke out.  Too busy fighting the Germans, the UFO they found sat around, waiting for engineers to have a go at reverse engineering.  Above MI-5 & 6, the Top Secret nature of their mandate had them working with intelligence agencies around the world, trading secrets, and answering only to the Crown and top echelon of the government.  Traditionally, they overtly shared information–covertly, America had rogue outfits that answered to no one, and believed themselves to be above regulations, standard operating procedures, and basic morality.  Many rival agencies did not like to do business with them, but the ultra Top Secret nature of their mandate had them maintain Earth in a new universal understanding; establishing our inter-stellar role included knowledge and technology far beyond what is routinely believed and discussed.    Their enemies simply disappeared, and they were always miles away from the scene…their operatives so dedicated death before dishonor was a slogan they lived by on a daily basis.  Darby’s group upheld political decorum, and always felt working with their rival agencies was like working with the devil…they also kept their secrets close to their vests…they knew all about America’s penchant for secrets and kept their own counsel.  Their attitude to the U.S. was trust, but always cut the deck.

High above the Machiavellian nature of human affairs, noiselessly coasting in the cold emptiness of space, the IR-33 satellite clicked and whirled silently as it received commands; high-resolution cameras focused on specific areas and began snapping photos.

Theo’s receiving link turned green and they began downloading sharp photos that provided a slice of the area like some hospital MRI.  The bedrock was clearly visible despite the mile-thick sheet of ice over top.  Sipping horrible coffee, he wished he’d brought a private stash from his uncle’s gourmet collection; when constantly swilling a brew for energy, taste mattered.

Transfixed by the new data, he imagined the continent millions of years ago, back in Pleistocene or earlier periods.  His uncle Darby suggested early Antarctica was the source of many ancient civilizations previously counted as myth…people he believed moved to South America, a warmer climate after ice covered Antarctica.  He bolstered the “Out of Africa” theory of early man with the notion Antarctica produced its own form of hominids.  The continent’s large size and isolated nature conspired to keep early civilizations remote and secret…creating a society that exceeded other populations in technology and learning.  When iced over, he theorized some left, yet some went down…deep within the continent’s core, living near geothermal hot springs and within an ecology we are unaware of to this date.  This idea was bolstered when the great explorer admiral Byrd landed on an exposed lake to take a temperature reading: 37-degrees…Celsius.  Darby theorized that warm water was part of a buried system of lakes in a separate and unknown ecosystem. Theo had always been torn between following his famous uncle into archaeology and history, or pursuing his love of cutting-edge technology: his solution was easy: study both.

Now receiving telemetry from the satellite, the ship gently rolled in a protected patch of sea between an ice-pack and the coast.  Overhead, the vacuum of space was beset with invisible fields of force; some known, others scientific mysteries.  One of those lines of force was gravity; it anchored satellites, moved planets, and pitched soft-balls of destruction: meteorites.  One of those rocky balls was now speeding towards Earth, its chance trajectory slamming it into the newly launched IR-33, causing a fatal spin.  The broadcast faltered and waned; the ship’s powerful radio commands now blanketed vacant space, their fortuitous wavelength awakening a sleeping sentinel that had watched over our planet for millennia.

Initially unaware of the death in space, Theo happily viewed the images from space until the monitors suddenly flickered and died.  Checking the signal receiver, it blinked from green to red.  Perplexed, he checked the computer generated image based on the ships radar; it had showed the satellite, the ship and their position near the continent; staring at a rapidly changing image, he watched the satellite tumble off-course, heading for the lower exosphere in a burn-out trajectory.  Replaying the last few moments, he saw a red line streaking in from deep space, ending as it touched the satellite.  Something from space impacted their satellite, sending it spiraling into a fiery crash with our atmosphere.

Watching the replay again, Theo initially wondered if this was some satellite-killing technology, but the visual display clearly showed the incoming red line lead back into space.  It was a meteorite.  He yelled out for Chuck.  Still watching his station, the satellite link inexplicably turned green again.  Their radar signals latched on to something.  Chuck appeared, and leaned over his shoulder.

Theo told him what happened, but while they stared at the monitor, a patchwork of disjointed colors danced across the screen, fighting to form an image.  Chuck said, “Are you sure our bird is totally dead?”  Theo nodded and replayed the computer animation for him.  Chuck shook his head and said, “Then what the hell is sending that download?”  Watching the computer generated, real-time image, it showed the ship, the land, but empty space above them.  Their signal only covered a 100-mile circle over their head.  Playback clearly showed the IR-33 disintegrating into nothingness as it hit the atmosphere.  Chuck stammered, “If it’s not our bird, and a satellite is sending this, it must have total stealth capability…maybe it’s some secret American bird.”

Theo opened a classified satellite scheduling program and checked to see if any nation had something in orbit: nothing.  Picking up his iridium satellite phone, he plugged into another satellite network and called a restricted number.  He got NORAD on the line.  After a few moments of explaining who he was and why he needed to speak to a commanding officer, he was put through.  A Captain Milford answered.  Theo told him his name and his position with the British navy.  The Captain casually asked, “Any relation to Sir Darby?”

Theo smiled and said, “Yes sir…he’s my dad.”

That seemed to sit well with Captain Milford, who was instantly more enthusiastic and helpful; once he understood why Theo was calling, the Captain said he would check the global tracking board and see what was over Antarctica.  A minute later, he came back, and told Theo they had nothing over the South Pole.  Theo detected a different attitude and tone from the Captain, thanked him and promised he would say hi to his dad.

Theo looked at Chuck.  “According to NORAD, no one has anything in the area.  The nearest bird is 200 miles away.”  Chuck frowned, and chewed on his pencil.  Theo added, “It was funny though…the guy was really friendly and upbeat at first…he asked about dad, but when he got back on he seemed different…curt and all business…much less friendly…like he was suddenly in a hurry to go.”

Chuck shrugged, and said, “I don’t trust those guys…he could have been CIA, MIB, NSA, DEA or some other alphabetical association, all knee-deep in secrets, and wouldn’t share the time of day with a Brit.  You said Captain Milford?  I’d write that down…it would be a good idea to find out who he really is, or why he was at NORAD.  Once they shut up, getting information is a nightmare…they toss you around the system, and before you know it, you’re talking to the NYPD.  They’re acronym happy over there, instead of saying bomb, they say IED.  I just find it totally weird…think about it, on top of all the government triplets, they reduce anything they can to point form.  Theo said, “Yeah, that’s the old colony for you.  Anyway, I had the distinct impression he knew a lot more when he got back on the line than he was willing share.  Let’s see what we can find on our own…and see if we can tighten all radio signals…Laser burst only…with their global paranoia, I bet we raised a red flag and they’re probably snooping on us as we speak.”

Scowling at the computer screen, Chuck said, “I hear you…we don’t need Men in Black showing up, or MIB in Americanese.  They are  bad news, and have a tendency to take over anything they deem too important to share with the world.”

Both their instincts were dead on.  Back at NORAD, Theo’s call had kicked up a small hornet’s nest. Mentioning his father’s name got more results than he could have anticipated.  There was a U.S. spy satellite less than two hundred miles away, and Captain Milford had typed in over-ride commands to turn it south.  Nothing on low-band, but when he tightened the emissions to extreme high frequencies, he got a hit.  Using the specialized cameras aboard, he took several shots over Antarctica.  When he saw what they were inquiring about, he put a team on capturing every radio transmission in the area, and was flabbergasted that Black Knight was transmitting to the British ship.  As soon as he heard the name Darby, he knew something interesting was going on…that guy had solved more mysteries than Perry Mason.  Quickly placing a call to Langley, Virginia, Milford was soon speaking with an equally startled Deputy Director of the CIA, Mark Thornton.  The British had somehow achieved something they’d been trying to do for decades…activating Black Knight.  After talking to Thornton, Milford headed down to data acquisition to see what else they might have picked up.

Theo adjusted the radio receiver, and as they both stared in disbelief, the feed morphed into shapes and forms that became recognizable images…similar to Deceiver’s first shots, but with way more definition and from a different angle.  Whatever wavelength made them created masterpieces of color, well beyond the IR-33’s range.  And, instead of square pixels, small triangles were coalescing, producing precise shots that showed the continent’s core and stratified layers of rock forming the Transarctic foothills.  Theo heard a crunch as Chuck bit through his pencil, and added, “No way…this is wild.”  They both watched in shock as something even stranger flashed by…a buried pyramid of incredible precision.

Theo stared in shock, his hand frozen in mid-air reaching for his coffee.  Chuck bit another piece off his pencil.  Theo warned him about lead poisoning, but they were too shocked to trade barbs.  Dragging the image to another screen, he studied the screen, and recognized it as a Sierpinski triangle…mathematically perfect, it was a marvel of architectural skill…probably built eons ago and buried by millennia of compacted snow and thick glaciers.  Pointing this out to Chuck, he added, “Most known finds are architecturally correct but fatter…step pyramids or truncated stumps.  This is geometrically perfect…perhaps the model later pyramids were based on.  It was suggested the unknown architect for these buildings traveled around the world, as many similarities abound; the Pyramid of the Sun at Copan, and the Indonesian structures around Anchor Wat are too identical to suppose random construction.  Oh man, my father is going to go ape-shit.  We need to get this to him right away.”  Chuck nodded mutely…totally absorbed the picture perfect image, his brain trying to wrap around what they were seeing.

The photos were ten-times the pixel quality they were used to seeing.  Chuck pointed to the spectroscopy scope; Deceiver’s original pictures compared to the current feed; a flat line beside wide, lazy loops.  The IR-33’s shots were like blurry Polaroid’s in comparison.  Chuck summed up their feelings, saying, “Holy shit.”  Running around the lab like a jackrabbit, he started checking other instruments that helped them scan space amid the over-crowded NASA junk.  Theo could hear Chuck offering various observations in his wake: “No way…shit…and unbelievable.”  Sitting down at the other Internet-linked station, Theo could hear him typing in various commands.  Theo continued to watch the new feed; whatever was taking these shots used hyper-frequency waves…infrared and above, then converted them to reach the ship’s dish.  It somehow knew how to code its responses to match their equipment—weird.

Chuck finished typing; moments later, he walked over to Theo, a serious look on his face.  His words were slow and deliberate: “This might sound like X-file stuff, but I think I know why the Americans might have acted strangely.  We somehow cracked that ancient satellite no one admits is up there called the Black Knight.  It’s the only thing that fits.  Remember the legends of a 13,000 year old satellite they found in the 50’s…after the Russians launched Sputnik?  U.S. Space Command thought they launched two, but after further research, they realized there was no way they could have put something that big into orbit.  I think Grumman did some calculations for proof, but after that, the door was shut, windows boarded over, and conspiracy people have been camped out on the lawn ever since.  I think we scored a direct hit on the MUFON target range.  We should give them a call…if not, those MIB door slammers will shut us in and slap a padlock on the door.  Wanna get famous?”

Chuck gave Theo a long stare, and said, “This has been a mystery since its discovery, and would force us to re-write history.  Anyway, after later images from the Shuttle and other space missions, they clamped a lid on it all, as they think this is an ancient satellite of unknown origin and age.  This was supposed to emit faint low-level radio waves…the basis for the radio transmissions Nicolas Tesla claimed to receive—I think amateur HAM operators also claimed to receive weird transmissions.  There’s leaked NASA photos on the web, and the Black Knight looks totally alien, totally black like a stealth aircraft, and has unknown capabilities.  The black is considered a solar receiver, and there’s wings it spreads to get a major charge.  This is huge…we’re in contact with an alien satellite.  No kidding buddy, we might very well get a visit from those MIB.  You remember the stories…they apparently appear out of nowhere…precisely where they want to be.  White skin, red lips…emotionless drones…many think they’re aliens themselves.  I’d dare them to show up on Detector, as Shears has that tough bunch of SAS dudes on board, and I think they’d toss their sorry asses over the side into the freezing drink…this is sovereign British territory.”

Theo frowned at Chuck and then nodded, deep in thought.  He knew the legend.  He also knew they were staring at definite proof—the images they received were beyond anything current technology could create.  Considering the sequence of events, the extremely powerful radio dish might have accidentally sent the right binary commands to activate this thing.  He ran through it one more time: they were in contact with their bird with strong, powerful narrow band transmissions…their bird got knocked out…if this legendary satellite had been near enough to pick up their commands, the alien bird would receive them, process them, and do exactly what they were witnessing…awesome pictures of the mountain range.  Black Knight was rumored to be in a Polar Orbit, and they were receiving incredible data.  This was crazy, but it might be real.  Sherlock Holmes once said: “After eliminating all clues, whatever’s left, no matter how crazy it might seem, has to be the answer.”  A good answer from a distinguished Englishman…the master of mystery, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle…thank you Mr. Doyle, thought Theo, it all adds up here.

He looked at Chuck and said, “Right on…if Black Knight responded to our commands, it must have activated cameras and sensors on board, and is showing us exactly what we asked for.  This is nuts, but it’s also the only explanation.  It can read our binary code.  NORAD confirmed there was nothing they knew of around here, but I’m starting to think you were right.  We can’t trust them.  If that’s got stealth technology, it would remain invisible to radar, but would show up if someone took a picture with a camera.  I think we’d better get Captain Shears down here; time for official navy B.S.  We’re a British warship, and this is our find…those MIB assholes don’t know Shears…he lives for this stuff.  My uncle will also flip when he sees what we found; he suspected there was something under the ice, but finding a huge pyramid complex is beyond imagination, and above suspicion.  Anyway, no one tells him what to do…I think the Queen might, but I’m not so sure.”

Chuck gave him a lopsided grin and said, “Yeah, I think this would qualify as something the big boys would want pour over and examine, but I bet when they get involved, this will never have happened.  It’ll become one of those ‘non-events’ that get shoved under the rug.  It will get that Top Secret rubber stamp, and no one will discover this amazing piece of human history.”

Theo nodded, deep in thought—he stood up and began rubbing his hands together like an wicked scientist.  “That’s why,” he said with an evil grin, “we’re going to record everything we’ve received from this new bird before we call him.  If we have the evidence, leak it over the Internet, the entire world will realize our history is more complicated than what they now teach.  Darby believes the truth should be shared, but he knows a lot of truth, and said some things need to be kept secret.  But…as Black Knight revolves around Earth, and many already know about it, this might get shared, and tell the world about certain things are not in our general historical timeline.  Amateur astronomers have followed this since the fifties, and the answers they’d collected would satisfy a curious public.  I’m going to upload this to my uncle’s private network…he’s got firewalls so thick a nuke would backfire.  And…since that bird recognizes our binary commands, I’m going to try and trigger a massive download.”  He gave Chuck a big wink.  Now hunched over his keyboard, typing furiously on his keyboard, Darby winked and smiled, his eyes blazing with determined intensity; “Oh Great Deceivers up above, what have you been hiding?”  He paused and added, “I think there’s some interference jamming the phones, if you know what I mean.”

Realizing the importance of their evidence, they both got busy and made duplicate files of everything.  After triggering an information download, he wondered what the 3.2 Terabytes might contain…images of Earth as it was ten thousand years ago.  Theo moved the computer imaging data to portable hard drives; small enough to conceal in a pocket, with a capacity to store over five Terabytes of data.  Once the data was duplicated, Theo called Shears.  Looking at the monitor’s crisp and startling images, Theo knew his uncle Darby would be enthusiastic with this level of proof…this was better than a smoking gun…this was the gun, the smoke, and the bullet.

© Dana Fitzgerald, IdEgo Creations, Burnaby, B.C.

artidan007@hotmail.com  (604) 436-3579

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music is always changing–much of that change is due to revolutionary new technology to expand personal equipment.  Instruments dictate what you can play.  The electric guitar brought us sustained feedback…Hendrix-style string-bending, and stretched notes that linger and sigh.  Santana made his guitar cry, sigh or scream.  Drum sets now give a double bass punch to a single bass, thanks to the double pedal.  Setting up two bass drums is a hassle, and moving them from gig to gig was hard work.  Many drummers use home kits and road kits…the road version stripped down to the absolute bare necessities.

Drummers avoided overly-large drum kits, as they take up space and are heavy to move.  Unless you’re in a popular band with tons of roadies, set up, break-down and moving were up to the owner.  A double pedal revolutionized modern music by allowing double bass fills with a single drum…thanks to a double beat pedal.  It was invented much earlier, but the mechanics were terrible, and having two drums with top notch pedals gave you more freedom and better sound.  Ginger Baker owned them; his huge sound, and thrumming beats combined his talent with his kit.  His style is unique and historically captured forever.  Dave Weckl is a modern master drummer that hits every nuance his personalized kit can give…the buzz and punch send his sound above and through his work, and will remain a standard for drummers to reach.

With the advent of the double-bass pedal, drummers achieve the same sound as a double bass without lugging around that extra drum.  Drummers such as Gavin Harrison, for example, use the double bass drum to help fill in an old rudiment, giving it a modern pulse and feel.  Adding five-stroke rolls with bass drums, or two bass drum beats before a para-diddle/rat-a-tat, adds extra punch and blurpy riffs to songs like Bonnie the Cat by Porcupine Tree. Heavy metal drummers always enjoyed the power of a  double bass, and that double bass beat was mandatory to drive metal’s heavy punch, accentuate bass riffs and punch out songs with the blurp of a double bass.  The steady quarter-note beat of two bass drums pounding into your soul made metal forceful with a steady beat.

As a new generation of drummers learn with a double bass pedal, their styles revolve around that extra whammy…creating standard rudiments that become second nature while learning.  It’s like learning to juggle very young, building muscle memory and special styles only twin bass drums can add.  Older drummers sometimes have problems learning this new skill; a great jazz/rock drummer, Charlie Watts had trouble learning the cowbell beat in Honky Tonk Woman, while other classically trained drummers couldn’t master the quarter-note high-hat ride and half-note snare accents particular to disco.  It’s not easy to teach an old dog new tricks, especially when you’ve played a certain style your entire career.  Muscle memory demands certain actions; great and awesome for what they’re used to, switching out or playing left notes with your right hand can be challenging.  Through the 70’s, drummers used the right foot on the bass, the left on the hi-hat; altering to play R/L hand rudiments with your feet is troublesome.  A sword master using a broad sword for thirty years could have trouble switching to the Japanese Samurai’s technique with Katana long-blade swords.

For drummers that are great with their hands and feet on a standard set, integrating co-ordination and independence means practice…repetitive motions that are burned into your mind/muscles.  Drummers instinctively choose the way they hold their sticks for greater control…the military grip over the matched grip.  Buddy Rich was a master of the military grip…balancing a stick between the middle and index finger and using the wrist/thumb to control one-handed rolls.  A favorite with jazz drummers, rock drummers favored the matched grip…just holding them like a knife or gripping them with the whole hand.  Some consider the loose match grip as a means of delivering more power, but it’s entirely up the the artist.  The military grip gives more precise control over the left stick, notably for rolls and accents.  There was only one Buddy Rich, but how you hold the sticks is less important than the sound you coax out of the drum.  The tricks and sounds Buddy coaxed out of his drums was singular and unique; no one can play what he played, but much of that was his style…something worked out over endless practice time, and a style that would be hard to change…tossing in a double bass wasn’t necessary, but he had such talent it would have become another tool to give his technique flair and pizzazz beyond anything routine.  He had rhythm to burn.

Counting with your feet and your hands is a must for the progressive metal drummer, and mastering this style of playing is a must for providing a modern thump to a snappy song.  A standard drum fill could be “RL (bass) RLRRLL (snare/tom), or vice versa.  This punctuated fills and cross-overs with a thundering blurp that is short, catchy and musically attractive.  John Bonham perfected the RL snare and R bass note roll at extremely high speed, one of the many fills he was famous for; his bass drum foot was fast, but a double-pedal could have produced more trademark riffs young drummers study and emulate.  Perhaps holographic drums are the future, but the modern kit is punchy and able to pound a rhythm that almost seems super-human.

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