Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A New Song About Songs

Very odd circumstances can sometimes culminate in the creation of new songs. I had one of those experiences a while back. It was late morning, following breakfast, with the lingering of a kitchen mess drawing my attention toward clean-up, that I now note as the beginning of this unfolding. The house was still, in the quiet after going through the morning’s ‘catching up’ on the supposed news. Outside the wildfire smoke was intense enough that the windows were all closed up for my intension to keep the concentration of particulate out, increasing the silence within. I thought to change the ambiance by adding some music to sooth my mind as I began the task ahead. Turning on my computer’s music reproduction software, I contemplated the play-list displayed, a remnant of yesterday’s listening to old Neil Young albums. In that moment with the last two tunes of his Zuma album (from 1975) cued up and waiting while my desire wanted something different, yet these two songs could play without disrupting my mood. Still the task in the kitchen required greater duration of time than these two songs could cover, but what to set forth? I wanted something different, something other than playing through the set order of recorded albums. My usual method for selecting a play list is, calling up artists, looking through album names, then choosing among the albums in the data base. Instead of following this procedure, I chose to enter words into the search box. Happenstance guided what followed, in the search box, I typed the words, “hard times.” The database parsed out 11 artist names, in the ordered list containing those two words. I added the titles to the play list, clicked the play button, then back to the kitchen to begin washing the dishes.

With this musical set list now filling the space, I began the dish washing process. At least three days of dishes had accumulated since the last washing, yet the quantity was minimal. I waited for the sink to fill, adding the liquid soap, placing the neatly arranged bowls into the steamy water, while noting the music that set the mood, pleasant in its familiarity. That washing, rinsing, and placing of clean tableware into the drainer began in its normal manner as the second song, the last track of Zuma began. I’d not listened to this in years, it sounded like CSN&Y (I later looked into this to find that all of those guys participated in the recording). My thoughts flipped about, influenced by the music and the activity. As the name themed song titles progressed, my thoughts swayed to the influence, the singing of songs about hard times. By the time the list had tracked through and to Woody Guthrie’s song, "Hard Times," I began considering that all these songs are derived out of the historically hard times that these authors had lived through, or at least knew something of. With the influences of these various hard time themes reflecting in my thoughts, combined with my own ever present quest of creating new songs, I began considering a tale based in songs about hard times. The Guthrie song, being one from the Library of Congress Recording sessions, includes a conversational narrative portion of some duration. It was during this narrative that my mind skipped past the spoken, allowing a phrase of my own to build about songs of hard times. Looking back now, it seems as tho, Woody’s statement about the many songs he knew about hard times, must have influenced my trajectory of thought. So many songs about hard times. I’d just listened to many other songs with the theme, hard times. Everybody’s singing songs about hard times. All these people sang songs of hard times, so why not write a song about a few people who wrote songs about hard times, inclusive of something specific to their author. With the dish washing completed, I moved back to the computer to write out the idea.

Since I had concluded this topic viable for a song, I set upon writing the theme. I immediately wrote what is a sort of chorus, having six lines specific to the general theme, singing songs about hard times, then I went back to the music program to revisit the individual songs that sparked the idea. I began with Woody Guthrie, to derive the respective theme expressed in the song. There in I wrote a verse having to do with Mr. Guthrie. I went down the play-list revisiting all the tunes and researching to discover the author whom wrote these songs, rather than the recording artist listened to, for clarity in addressing who actually created the themes I'd been experiencing. From that point on, the process was quite simple, mechanical really, although it was inspired of my own passion.

Now, in reflection, I realize that this song came about through my deliberate attempt to write a song. This is a different methodology from the usual method I employ. More often than not, my own experience in creating songs has shown up through what I consider as the song finding me, or the universe gave it out, allowing me to catch it due to being receptive, which is not what happened during this song's creation. It worked out rather quickly, the writing and then establishing a musical theme that could support the lyrics. In truth, I believe I have found better songs through listening to that which is offered by the universe, than what this song amounts to. Even so, this was another song writing experience.

Friday, May 12, 2017

(Ben Bullington) The Friend I Knew But Never Had II

The song “(BenBullington) The Friend I Knew But Never Had,” has been recorded. I posted it on my website, yesterday. Now I am getting around to writing this. It has been a pretty good experience learning this song then recording it. Learning the recording equipment has been a kick too, so many possibilities. The following is quite evident if listened to with headphones. In this mix, , I separated the vocals totally. Then through the duration of the chorus, the vocal parts gradually switch sides, fully. For me this is a complete learning process that is fun in itself. During this enjoyable time, I am fulfilling my other goal, recording all the music I’ve written. Playing those 40 year old songs again is in itself a tour down memory lane, through the times in life and living it, with that occasional intersection with the muse. So if you find interest in song, this song in particular, click on that link above, as always on the Internet, the choice is yours to make.

Friday, March 3, 2017

(Ben Bullington) The Friend I Knew But Never Had

(Ben Bullington) The Friend I Knew But Never Had

Today is days after the creation of another new song. Time seems to fly you know?  In this song writing experience, when reflecting on it, I can say it to be typical of writing songs, that being, it is always different!   The circumstances that surround the idea, and its sprouting into becoming a song, well they are unique to themselves, drawing from days now years ago, a time with a friend to watch good musicians play their own tunes.  I saw Merle Haggard that weekend.  The “Red Ants Pants Music Festival” If you go check it out, I'm pretty sure you will have a good time.  Really I am not here to talk about or promote the festival, because unlike the festival, this song is that which I did show up to write about, this song seems pretty darn good to me.  There is a very odd circumstance to tell here,  a connection between this song and the music festival.  On the morning that this song came, I'd received the mailing list announcement from the Red Ants Pants Foundation, telling about the upcoming summer show.  And it really is only some circumstance which led me to write this song.

Those years ago when I attended the Red Ants Pants Music Festival, one of the artists showcased was one Ben Bullington.  He was a gifted guitarist, singer, and song writer.  Since my introduction to Ben at the Festival, I did a simple search on that YouTube and found many very good samples of Ben and his music.   In there, I'd found one video that I especially appreciate, maybe because of my own, smidgen of a connection to the actual place, but the song and the setting with which the video contained it, has a memory that lingers still.   I found and turned on that video, that morning, after receiving the e-mail from the Red Ants Pants Foundation, to again view its content.  It was just the same as it was the last time I saw it. :)  Ben's song, White Sulphur Springs, beautiful to my ear.  Now Ben, he passed away a year or more ago, so I cherish the memories.  After its conclusion the song idea in words began to form.

With the recognition of what I wrote above, I then contemplated an idea which was forming.  The idea having to do with an abstraction about how we, as humans can be personally impacted by music, by songs, their lyric, or some of the lines there in.  None the less, it is seemingly quite a phenomenon that humans can form bonds in that manner, yet there it is, we do, it is real.  I think myself in some ways have felt as though I knew some songwriters through their music.  They were like friends, in that abstract way.  The lyrics formed up in acknowledgement of that friend like situation which comes up with individuals and song writers, or maybe it is just me, hummm?? Friends that we never had came as a line.  Well I wrote four line stanzas, three of them, then tried another but the words didn't line up really, a line showed up yet it was incomplete.  I passed it by, although, I left it on the page, I then wrote I believe two more sets of stanzas, before I actually stopped to read what was there.  I looked at it knowing, its intent.

The content seemed a mess, yet there was a theme, based in the memory described above.  With the mouse I high-lite the third paragraph, grabbed and dropped it at the top, then moved what had previously been first putting it third.  Now the idea was clear, the song is about songs.  Its about what songs can show or do.  Songs are unique in that way pointing out a very specific topic.  It's powerful art.

I came to a halt at this point.  There were words forming up, they had that needed characteristic of meter, yet no music.  Through my own experience, it is seldom that I can continue writing words before having touched an instrument with a definite inspiration, but I had nothing.  It has happened previously, coming to a point where the muse seems to have fled the room.  In the past some songs I've stopped entirely, they still await their due completion, the song intended, but the song must contain it's initial inspiration to continue.  So I am stopped, I have thoughts of being influenced by the music of Ben's song, because it was the last thing I had experienced prior to the muse's stream, the stream I was following until now when away it went.  I had the '62 Gibson J-45 in my hand, its scarred face a unique portrait of its history, leaving cracks and a missing chip of spruce near where the sound hole nears the fingerboard on the upper front bout.  It's character, the injuries that happen.  Its sound comes out sweetly when finger-tips strike them just right.   A rhythm formed, as did the question of suitability for the lyrics on the computer screen.  Actually that particular rhythm sounded like something else, at least in a way, no I say, no!  More tries, left me feeling that I'm being forceful rather than flowing.  Maybe the muse is really gone?  Then it came together, just as suddenly as the words, voice engaged, struggling to read the computer screen.  I stopped adjusting the lyrics, larger, to large to fit in one desktop window, so I opened a new document, placed it beside the window of lyrics, copy and pasting the lyrics in the fresh window, then scrolling the second window to show the words hidden in that lower left, below the window's size limit.  Now with large sized letters I could read the words as best as I am able and back to the guitar and its fine sound with finger tips, but no, a pick will sound different, and a pick took the task.  I'd found a rhythm and a chord progression in C Major.  It is a long time since I've written a song in C.  It started coming together, but the tongue brain interface and alignment with the lyric in the cadence, as it often does, seemed like singing tongue twisters.  I believe this is a tempo issue, where a quick tempo rhythm forces the mouth to go faster and in strange ways while their order remains unknown in the brain.  And as normal for me when dealing with the unfamiliar, I tend to speed up, which makes the difficulty more of a struggle.  I had found this song, it was coming home.  I sang the first verse, then again, then the second a couple of times, struggling to form the words.  I could tell this was going to be one of those hard ones to learn.  I got through these first three verses to decide that the incomplete line I'd previously abandon, could form up a chorus, and I shifted the rhythm up a 4th to the F forming a chorus.  It was too short, being but two phrases, “the starry eyed, the story spun.”  The writer and the story he'd told.   Then a different kind of idea came, from looking above seeing a line already written.  Paste, instant gratification, it was a tie, connecting an earlier thought, that could become a theme.  I sang that a couple of times, still too short?  I left it again, to sing the next sets of lines.  The upper half of the song shows a distinct subject  of what songs bring in messages, if any.  I mean there are no real rules. This song says it is about songs by declaring, “Songs are sung,” also saying “songs are made.”  The point bing that songs can do things to people, they stir up emotion of all kinds.  It is also saying that the author of a song is significant to the songs point of view.  The second half of the song, I say half although the second part is more lengthy than the first, the song shifts to the observer of songs, the point of view being the listener, having recognized a song as meaningful.  The song then concludes by recognizing that Ben has died and that his death has its own impact on individuals.  I know his death had a noted twitch in me, back when I heard of it.  That is why I gave the song it's oddly formed name: (Ben Bullington) The Friend I Knew But Never Had.  I have experience this situation with Ben, and now it is this song.  So Ben, I guess this song is for you, RIP.

In this moment, I've no idea when this song will have it's own recording completion. It could be days, or weeks. or month, even years away, if ever.  The song referred to in the previous post is of a song that awaited recording for a year and a half.  When it is finished, I'll make notice. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

In This World So Blue (II)

It is now nearing on 2 years since I wrote the song “In This World So Blue,” followed by writing the post here in regards to writing the song In This World So Blue - May15, 2015.  Shortly after writing this song, I became involved in a different recording project.  The new project is to record all of the songs I have written in this life.  And thus I put the song down for a year, or more.  A couple of weeks ago, the big project attracted this song.

I had no clear reason behind selecting this song to record as the next one that gets started, other than it came to mind to do so.  It came up as an inspired impulse.  I almost always begin a new recording by recording a rough draft with acoustic guitar beside my vocal.  When I begin a recording project, I use separate tracks for capturing these parts, a helpful tool as the audio tracks begin to shape the eventual complete recording.  Tempo is also critical, so usually I employ a metronome to follow during that initial recording.  In recent months I've been learning how to simulate drum sounds using software.  It took me months to figure out drumming and where drums intersect with the time line.  Threw-out my past, I'd by-passed thinking critically about the technical side of drumming, where beats, off beats, etc., fit on the time line, in a measured musical format.  I am not a drummer and have never wanted to drum.  In the physical world my rhythm is too imperfect to be a drummer, which had formed my lack of understanding as to the technical side of playing drums.  While in the process of learning Hydrogen, drumming software, I was shocked to discover this technical side of drumming.  Drums as compared to the melodic instruments requires a very different set of rules, either imagined or real.  I've yet to see musical score for drums, thus my thoughts about what it would actually look like, where on the time line beats are placed to form a good syncopated rhythm, and similarly which symbol should be selected to create complement to the tune.  Since I had no idea about drumming it took me quite a long time, months to figure it out well enough to apply it or think myself competent enough to create this more complete rhythm section in my recordings.  Having gone through this process with several songs now, I decided that with this song, I'd add the drum track early in the process, and follow that up with a bass track, before I attempted to create the audio tracks to be used in the final mix.

In general, the methodology I use in recording, as I do with most of life, is free form, living in the moment, following the inspiration at hand.  I'll often start a song's recording process, then leave it for extended periods of time to come back to later, when an inspiration takes me there.  This freedom allows what feels good in the moment to take precedent.  If for example, I attempt using a schedule, the muse seems to retreat and the project becomes forced, rather than inspired.  The other side of that is that were I to focus on one song only, from its first track through to completion, it can sometimes narrow my view of music temporarily, by disallowing practice of other songs, in favor of the song of the day.  Yet with, “In This World So Blue,” the process went with an unusual ease.  It took me several evenings creating the rhythm section of the tune.  With this method of making recordings, one person doing it all, it is a different approach than it is when working with a musical group of personnel to try creating a similar result.  The process is rather new to me and I have to create my own methodology, having no peers to work with, within the process.  One of the most missed aspects of this is the limit of ideas within any individual.  Working with others brings with it, a broader background of experience to reach into during the creative process. 

When I create the rhythm parts, I follow along with the rough draft recording, writing out the midi track note by note within the software interface (piano-roll), for the bass, while the drum track uses an entirely different interface style that captures short patterns that can be repeated at will.  When creating bass tracks, I generally write out the entire track note for note, rather than creating patterned pieces that could be used in a, copy and paste method, to form the whole.  The pattern method offered in the drumming software, uses a limited time length system, with each pattern being equivalent to a single measure in music.  I use Ardour (audio multi-track recording software) to create my music recordings.  Ardour's  midi system offers the user to choose the duration of each segment or pattern if one wishes to use a pattern type method to input a complete track.  I finished the rhythm section then recorded the vocal track, followed by a rhythm guitar track and finally a lead guitar track.  It took some time with my limited abilities, a lot of do-overs, and punch out sections.  I then used the automation portion of Ardour to edit the final mix.   This is a really powerful tool that assists to keep the sound levels of the individual tracks to be at their preferred level, throughout the recording's duration.  Being an imperfect musician, I am seldom, if ever perfect in my presentation, volume levels very slightly in different sections of the tracks of captured audio.  The automation is designed to adjust these variations in the volume for the final output. 

I think I created a good overall feel and sound with this song.  You can listen to it yourself if you wish.  I allow those who desire to experience my art the opportunity to do so.  Go to the website thomasepeterson.com and see for yourself.