I did this acapella cover about a year ago just after Whitney Houston died.
I did this acapella cover about a year ago just after Whitney Houston died.
February has been a productive month. I went into it with one big objective: to work on my follow-up to my pop opera The Little Death: Vol. 1, the cleverly-titled The Little Death: Vol. 2. The MATA Festival has afforded me with a nice deadline to work against – I’ll be performing selections from TLDV2 at Roulette on April 19th – but, to be honest, going into February this is all had planned:
A primary challenge was going to be working in a style, both in terms of the music and the method, that I’ve largely grown away from. The Little Death is a project that goes back as early as 2006, very soon after I wrote some of my first ever through-composed pieces of music. It’s written almost entirely in Ableton Live and involves no written-out music – except in the few cases when I have someone else record a part (though Mellissa did without music more often than not!). Creatively, I hadn’t touched anything Little Death since the end of the TLDV1 mastering process, late 2009. It’s now over two years later, and I found myself in that familiar, yet utterly-unproductive, place of utter speculation.
Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned from successfully writing music over the last 6-7 years (successful as in actually getting it done) is that early speculation about a new piece is about 0.1% of the work you should do (speaking personally, others may have different processes). The more the piece resides in the aether of speculation, the more that speculative challenges and threats will arise, and the more chance there’ll be that the reality of the work will never be able to match that celestial work of art in your imagination. Long story short: I speculated way too fucking long on this bitch, and it came time to lock myself in my studio and see what came out.
What came out, based on my two-point plan:
I decided that most of it sucked. Or, to be more forgiving of myself, most of it wasn’t worth spending any more time on. I planned to keep some of the themes in mind, but try and start fresh. Biggest fear: I wouldn’t be able to create new music that matched the vibe of TLDV1.
This went unexpectedly well. I decided to work mostly in Ableton Live (though with a bit more Sibelius thrown into the mix than last time). Most of the music began as melodies I sang and recorded on the spot. Then I’d listen over and over and add what I’d hear in my head, rinse and repeat. A very simple process, and very similar to how I worked on TLDV1. The vibe of the music is little different – I’m a better singer now, so there’s quite a bit more vocals being used as harmony and texture whereas before I would use samples and synths – but the spirit is very similar. Blindly diving into the writing process also helped solve some lingering plot holes and issues that I couldn’t for the life of me think my way through. Funny how my brain keeps insisting that logically problem-solving my way through these challenges is the way to go, even after he’s been proven wrong time after time.
So it’s now the end of February and I have four new songs (totaling almost 20 minutes) that are very likely to appear on TLDV2 – though still firmly in the “demo” stage – and one other I’m currently working on, but I think is going to work.
Here are some tantalizing facts about what TLDV2 is going to feature, based on my work in February:
Tantalizing? Hope so. Stay tuned for more TLDV2 updates (hopefully with some samples!).
Aw hell, I’ll just link here as well:
Here’s my recent Alarm Will Sound piece, about an suburban, in-the-closet, teenage Karen Carpenter impersonator (I play him):
A Song for Wade - 2011
Here are the wonderful lyrics by Royce Vavrek:
Dad’s office had a salary freeze. Mom’s pissed she has to work part-time. They get home and smoke cartons of cigarettes. Watch the Wednesday night CBS lineup. Cough in unison. Lost in a cloud of smoke. Someday they’ll asphyxiate.
Mommy hates Daddy. I hate ‘em both. Mommy and Daddy, and Sis. My sister loves my Daddy cuz he shells out lots of money. Sometimes the three of them watch QVC and then buy buy buy. Nobody knows where their money goes.
I met a man named Wade. By met, I mean we’ve been chatting online. “I think that I love you,” he emailed to me. He thinks I’m 19.
I told him I’d record him a song. This is not that song.
I think my sister’s boyfriend has a crush on me. He likes to walk around wearing only a towel. Pausing at my bedroom door, saying “Hey Dude!”, showing off his treasure trail. He’s nothing to write home about. But he’s more than my sister deserves.
“I love that you love me,” I emailed back. I think I could love him; but maybe I’ll hate him. Even more than Mommy hates Daddy.
I dream about my sister’s college drop-out, and the internet love of my life, who swears he’s divorcing his wife, I imagine them wrestling, with me as the prize. I gotta record a song for him, Wade… before he doesn’t love me anymore.
Next up is a piece from a recent opera-in-progress of mine, Mata Hari: The Great Imitator:
Mata Hari: The Eye of the Day, from Mata Hari: The Great Imitator – 2011
Jeff Gavett – Voice
Helen Yee – Violin
James Moore – Banjo
Red Wierenga – Keyboards
The lyrics, based on the writings of Captain Pierre Bouchardon, translated by Paul Peers, the director of the upcoming opera:
Mata Hari! “The Eye of the Day” in Javanese, according to the translation she gave me.
When she entered for the first time in my office – That was February 13th, 1917 – I saw a full-lipped woman with coppery skin, somewhat native-like with fake pearls in the ears.
She said her name was Margaret Geertrude Zelle – the ex-wife of the Major Rudolph MacLeod, she said in a haughty tone like a person of importance that had been improperly and unnecessarily disturbed.
Officer Priolet, who an hour earlier apprehended her while she slept in a hotel on the Champs-Elysées.
Then, believing being released from me, she changed her expression and gave me her most gracious smile.
Then she went to the door with swinging of her hips that did not fail to charm.
But she was no longer free, and the stairs leading to the cell were opened before her.
She looked at me, her eyes rolled back, in mute terror.
I [XX] - 2010
Lyrics, again by Royce Vavrek:
I tasted another woman in your mouth.
I don’t mind that you have other lovers.
All I ask is that you brush your teeth between engagements.
One of my favorite things about moving to Park Slope, Brooklyn has been our routine of wandering the streets every Saturday morning (and sometimes Sunday) looking for killer deals among the varied stoops of our brownstone-dominated neighborhood. I’ve built up a pretty decent (and quite nerdy) library, largely culled from these excursions, as well as the annual Park Slope book sale at the church on 6th Ave. and 8th St. We’ve also stocked our apartment with all manner of miscellanea we never would have imagined had we not stumbled upon them on the third step of some stranger’s reddish-brown stairway.
Today was a particularly good stoop sale’n’ day. Here is our booty:
Toys (mostly for Jackson…):
Toy Marimba (Nice, made of wood and everything!) – $5.00
Bakugan ball – $0.25
Harry Potter Wand – Free with other purchases
Backrest Pillow (Which Melly insists is called a “husband pillow”…) – $5.00
Dress for Melly, made by Ronen Chen (retails for $96.00, tags still on) – $10.00
Skirt for Melly, made by Gr. Dano (retails for $280.00, stags still on) – $10.00
Two T-shirts for Jackson (one Spiderman!) – $2.00
Vest by Hannah Anderson for Jackson – $0.50
Mittens for Jackson – $0.50
Chapterhouse: Dune – Frank Herbert – $0.50
God Emperor of Dune – Frank Herbert - $0.50
Heretics of Dune – Frank Herbert - $0.50
The Icewind Dale Trilogy – R.A. Salvatore – (3 Books) $2.00
Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook; Dungeon Master Guide; Monstrous Manual (all 2nd Edition) – $3.00 (GEEK ALERT!)
Drawing/Writing Journal for Jackson – $0.50
Comparable to a dinner for two at a decent restaurant. Not bad… :)
I recently did an episode of Nadia Sirota‘s radio show on Q2 about my music and the upcoming SONiC Festival, where I’ll be performing my new Alarm Will Sound piece, A Song for Wade (This is not that song). I play a teenage Karen Carpenter-impersonator, it’s going to be a blast.
You can listen here:
They also play several other recordings of my stuff, including music from The Little Death: Vol. 1, my Revolution 9 arrangement for Alarm Will Sound, my Live on WNYC remix of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and even a Birtwistle piece on which I play french horn.
The Alarm Will Sound show on the SONiC Festival is Friday, October 21st at Roulette in downtown Brooklyn. Be there or be square!
Check it out below. It was great to work with producers Irina Khokhlova and Jonathan Lief of Brooklyn Independent TV.
The video features me working on several pieces, including my Sunrise, Outside Remix I made for the Satan’s Pearl Horses Reel:My ukulele version of OMG I’m Shot:
So I’m having excerpts of a new song cycle performed on Friday, 3/25/11 at Music at First and Thursday, 4/7/11 on 21c Liederabend at The Kitchen. It’s a collaboration with lyricist Royce Vavrek entitled I [XX] and I thought I’d post some of the lyrics because they’re awesome.
In short, I [XX] is a series of snapshots into a woman’s sexual life. All of the songs are based on the simple grammatical formula I [verb p.t.]. It was written for, and is being performed by, Mellissa Hughes and the Brooklyn Brass Quintet.
I. I Didn’t
I didn’t. You thought I did. But I didn’t. You don’t know what you’re doing, you spend so much time down there completely missing the boat that I feel obliged to perform. Howling, sighing, grabbing at the sheets. You think you’ve conquered my genitals, I’m that good.
You finished. You did, but I didn’t. That’s why I sleep with the 18 year-old boy who delivers my Moo Shu Chicken. Five minutes and I don’t need to fake anything. And he considers it his tip.
II. I Tasted
I tasted another woman in your mouth. I don’t mind that you have other lovers, all I ask is that you brush your teeth between engagements.
III. I Pretended
I pretended you were handsome. I knew you’d be awkward as hell, but I pretended. I knew that you’d kiss me so softly I could barely feel it, that I’d find your moans annoying, that your hands would clumsily fondle my breasts, that you weren’t packing much heat. I knew that you imagining some girl from high school who never gave you the time of day. I waited for the accidental cry of her name.I knew the cab ride home would be longer than the time spent in your bed. I knew I’d bathe and wash you away extra hard, a whole bar of soap vanishing. I knew all this, but I pretended you thought I was sexy.