Archive for category Music
My new single!!
It’s been awhile since I released any new music. I started working on this song during a huge creative spurt last year. I recorded a demo, and really liked it, but it need some tweaking.
So, what did I do today? Lots and lots of tweaking! LOL And paperwork. And scorewriting. And editing and editing and more editing. Proofreading. Computer work. Computer glitches. Computer file formats. Rendering. More computer glitches.
But here it is.
This is the first time I have released a song that was created in my home studio. If you recall how many times I complain about audio engineering…it seems like it’s amazing that I even got this far. (And yes…full disclaimer..I do comprehend how much farther there is to go – in terms of me learning and being adequate in audio engineering.)
But something about this song captured me from the beginning. It’s one that I play over and over. It touches me on some base level. For me…music is about generating a response in the listener – whether that response is to tap your toes, or dance in your chair, or make a tear come to your eye, or touch your heart in a way that says, “I have felt that way before!”
I guess that’s why I’m not at the top of the charts. It seems to me that modern music has taken away the emotion. Modern music (ie the ‘popular’ tunes that are controlled by mega media companies) has taken away emotion. It seems to have no human connection. It is a commodity – manufactured to the lowest common denominator.
This, THIS is my stand.
Music – no matter what the genre, is about capturing the human condition.
As to the song itself…
every artist needs a muse.
This song is both inspired by…and dedicated to…
You make me smile.
Part of being a creative artist – is receiving rejections. I received this letter earlier in the week:
I hope this finds you well. First, I want to apologize for the delay in getting our feedback to everyone — we were hoping to complete this process much sooner, but, since we don’t send “yes” or “no” form letters, it takes us a good deal longer than most companies to read through submissions and get back to every creative professional with individualized feedback.
In the case of Paula/Poly, we found your story and your characters very compelling. Of course, the story is not brand new, but it seemed as though the heavy use of sociological labels in your piece (“poly[amorous],” “triad,” etc.) — which are socially and ethically challenging concepts to be sure — make the subject matter a little uncomfortable. You call the piece a comedy, but, to be perfectly honest, it didn’t feel like one as we were reading. The emotions that Paula felt came across as very genuine, as did the emotions of the other three principals, and their words were very heartfelt — we genuinely felt badly for the people whose hearts were hurting, and that’s a testament to your strong writing.
Of course, whether it’s a comedy or drama is not really a big issue. The piece could work fine as a drama, or as something in between (like the Netflix series Love, which portrays some very tumultuous relationships). There have certainly been attempts in recent years to portray polyamorous relationships in the performing arts (including a failed recent series on Showtime), but, while the concept of polyamory is by no means new, it is still a challenging issue for the public to grapple with (the way marriage equality still was 8-10 years ago), especially in a relatively conservative state like Kentucky. We also felt that the title, while verbally witty, didn’t really do the piece justice – it just highlighted the controversial nature of the subject matter.
Now, I should note that some stage works, especially those involving music (which seems to transcend many of our artificial barriers), are able to overcome the intrinsic challenge of their subject matter when the music/art is strong enough – Rent is a good example. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel that was the case in this piece. The character of Paula wasn’t developed enough to be someone that we wanted to “root for” – perhaps if she’d had a back story and had experienced some public or professional success, that would invest us in the character enough to want to ride out her challenge with her (sort of akin to the recent PR campaign showing successful public figures saying something to the effect of “Oh, by the way, I’m a Mormon.”). Or, if the music had been truly sensational, it would have carried us beyond the surface level of the challenging words — but in this case, we didn’t have any printed music to look at or sing from, and we found the audio that you provided a little monotonous. Speaking of which, is the female voice in the recording yours? If so, you have a truly beautiful instrument. As a record producer, I would put a voice like that in the studio in a heartbeat. But it does have an unusually low range, and it’s not representative of most female musical theater voices, so it would be difficult for most groups to use this audio as a basis for judging how the music will work for their voices (especially without any printed music). We would humbly recommend, if you’re going to continue sharing audio demos of this work, that you invest in a few singers who have the timbres and ranges that you ultimately envision for these roles. (If you don’t have access to the singer-actors where you are, we might be able to help with that, and I’d be glad to talk further about some sort of recording collaboration if that were of interest to you – we’ve done this with several composers).
Artistic Director & Conductor
The Bluegrass Opera
My brain is firing today.
Creativity is a pendulum, and all you can do is ride it out. When you are so ON that everything you touch turns to gold, then it’s amazing. But what is the aftermath? No one can function at a 95% level indefinitely. You burn it out. You burn YOURSELF out.
So, when these amazing streaks of creativity and productivity happen, then you ride it (and you’d better do everything you can to enjoy them while they last), but then you have to ‘suffer’ the aftermath.
I’ve had 5 months of aftermath. The last burst of creative brilliance in July was an idea for a short film. Then I Had To shut it down, and give myself/body/mind/spirit/soul time to recoup from the previous super intense 8 months of creative accomplishments.
So, this short film is a noir, thriller. When my movie parter, Don and I conceive these ideas, they grow soooo big, we can’t seem to accomplish them. So, I am limiting us on this one. No large cast. No need to acquire sets or major props. Film it with what we have now.
And now, finally, maybe it’s time to move filmmaking to the front burner. Last year, we built a major proposal for a thing code named Project D. We didn’t get a green light, but it’s still in the back of my mind. So, this is a ‘toe in the water’ so to speak. A short film, but good quality, to send to festivals and get more stuff rolling out there.
So, what happened today – ie why am I blog posting when things have been so quiet lately?
Well, I want a haunting instrumental music piece to go over the ending credits.
An idea fires in my brain. I go to the piano. I keep a recorder there and notes, so when these moments happen (the last song I composed was what? July??), so when I’m checking notes and recorder, I am sooo afraid the noir idea will fly out of my head.
But finally I get it laid down on tape. Now it exists in the world, and I don’t have to try to ‘hold it’ in my head. I wanted a haunting, eerie piece of music. And it didn’t exist before today. Sometimes a song will be ‘in there’ in you, for days and you think on it and evaluate it. Today, it just popped into my head.
I hope my audio recording skills are good enough to let me lay it down (for real) in my home studio. Goodness knows audio engineering is one the things that my skills are not adequate at – at all. But I will try it here, and see.
The music is what’s new for today. The ideas for the short film have been percolating around in my head for months, so maybe, even during the creative shut down, something was ‘working’ back in there.
Last night, I texted a friend. He texted me back – but his words are arranged in a way that make me smile. So, I think about it, and that idea bounces around in my head for 20 hours.
Boom! That’d be a damn good song hook. Let’s go see what evolves:
To the piano I go. I compose by singing into a cassette recorder. I write lyrics and notes and scribbles and chicken scratches that only I can decipher, in a spiral notebook. The notes and shortcuts are in a language only I can understand. (And I’m getting in real trouble now, because as I age, my handwriting only gets worse. When I can’t read my own writing…then where will I be? LOL)
The song, slowly, evolves. Now, keep in mind – this one has only been in my head for about 20 hours. As it’s pouring out into the notepaper/cassette recorder – it’s mostly happening live. This isn’t stuff that I’ve thought about for days or months, and working to get it …just so. It’s new! fresh! unthoughtof!
It’s a shuffle. Dance-able. Makes you grin. Makes you smile. The hook and theme is universal – if an old flame is standing (in a bar) before you and asking you to take them back – do you do it? Especially when that person was the one who dumped you last time?
We’ve all been there, right?
What makes a song connect to people? Universal themes of life?
So, yeah. Now a song exists, one that didn’t exist an hour ago.
And I was the one who got to ‘hold the pen’. I was the one that the universe gave this song to.
This was the 405th time that has happened. #405 in my catalog. When I was working on the musical (code name P/P) I knew I had gone over 400. When I hit 200, I said we’d have a party. We didn’t. When I hit 300, I said we’d have a cake. We didn’t.
Well, damn, 400 deserves something. A cake! Confetti. Balloons! But alas…#400 came and went in February, in a rush of composing and a huge catapult of creative energy.
So, where are we now?
It’s August 1. In 8 months, I have completed 8 major projects. When I finished P/P which was #7, I was sooo depleted. I am still not “recovered” or “replenished”. So, what do I do? Not 5 hours went by, and I thought up another project. So, 17 days – on that one, and it was done, and oh boy, was I in trouble. I had used up my energy. I had used up my creative wellspring. More than that, I had used up ALL my insides. I have never ‘pushed’ myself to that limit before. 8 projects in 8 months.
I finally google: “How to replenish Chi”
The answer: sleep, rest, eat well, drink lots of water, don’t poison yourself with processed food or negative energy. The bottom line: TIME!
Time fixes my sprained foot. Time replenishes Chi.
Well…yeah. I knew that. It’s the answer to everything: take care of yourself. Drink lots of fluids. Eat right. Be positive. Sleep. Rest. Breathe.
For every action – there is an equal and opposite reaction: Extreme creativity – and its opposite: existing as a lump of clay, unable to get out of your chair and cook your own dinner.
No, it’s not that bad. (Who am I kidding? Yes, I DO have days like that.)
To live life at this extreme…
I am amazed when someone says they are bored. How can you be bored with so much life out there – waiting to be experienced?
So, we are about three weeks into me – trying to not “drive it” so hard, and rest.
I’ve done a lot of “lay on the sofa and watch sci-fi” (my chosen downtime). But…like last weekend, when the opportunity arose – I got it together and went to the movie audition. And today…when there is an idea – grab it with both hands and RUN WITH IT.
So, what if – I’m now sitting in my LazyBoy, with a quilt over my stomach, to quell the ‘wobblies’ of having expelled too much creative energy?
I think I existed 4 days without this “hole in my gut”. But, now, here we are – back at the extreme again.
It’s worth it. The toll to the human. The toll on the psyche. No matter what this whole process does to the human, does to the body, does to the soul…it’s worth it.
Because song #405 now exists.
The musical, which I have referred to as P/P is finished! This was a relatively short gestation period, perhaps 2 years.
I got the initial draft and composing done in February (where it just poured out of me in one of those miracle things where you say “All I had to do was to hold the pen!” …which, these days is a metaphor, because it’s more about the computer keyboard LOL.)
Then, once the initial draft is done, I ‘put it away’, and let it gel. Then you come back to it with fresh eyes, and evaluate.
So, in this last week, I have worked and fixed things and recorded and evaluated and built.
I hoped to be finished by June 30. When this happened, it happened quickly.
So, all week, I ‘shored up’ demos that needed ‘more’. There were so many steps, I can’t seem to even remember them all.
I pulled an all-nighter night before last, just working the steps, but I actually got the musical DONE. Who knew?
This one is complex. The story isn’t just told in dialog. The songs add to the story, advance the story and tell the story.
The project feels fairly tight to me. 15 songs – 13 of which were newly written specifically for this project. 2 I had already written in my catalog and were able to be incorporated.
This musical has 4 main cast members, 2 male and 2 female. Each role must be a true singer (and actor and dancer) (The men especially on the dance part). The scene settings are house/bar/house/bar/house/bar. So, I envision a lot of visible, on-stage quick scene changes, where people carry in tables and chairs and we wheel in a bar, and boom! The scene change has happened.
This one will be fun to see. You can dream up these shows in your head, but when it comes to staging them, the possibilities of what you can do – are endless.
I spoke to an acquaintance yesterday, who asked me what the musical was about. It’s a grown-up subject matter. And while I have completed the musical – the writing and composing; I have not completed the ‘sales’ things you need -, the synopsis, the character description, the descriptions you need in order to ‘pitch’ it.
What’s next? I have no idea.
That statement works on two levels: What’s next for the musical? I have no idea where it goes next. I will pitch it, and pitch it, and pitch it. As with our last major stageplay, my plan is to “Wallpaper the universe” with it = send it every place that I can.
What’s next on the creative forefront? I have no idea? Honestly I didn’t expect this musical to be ‘done’ so quickly. I am ahead of the game time-wise, and I have no idea which project will come to the forefront next.
One thing’s for sure: I have expelled so much creative energy (and gone without sleep) I can barely stand up straight. Pushing that much of your own life force into a creative project, in order to bring it to life, it takes the stuffing out of a human. I need to recharge.
I’ve been creatively shut down for 2 months. In that time, the only creative thing I’ve done is a revision to a screenplay and I got out some play proposals. Life keeps throwing curve balls at me – things that require time and energy and dont’ leave you any room for anything else.
There are various ways to recharge. But for me, one of them is:
Branson puts you in a state of mind unlike any other place. For some reason, when you are up on that strip, you forget the worries and problems of everyday life. The things you are confronted with are all about fun: What restaurant do we eat at? What show do we see? Where do you want to go next?
So, my alarm went off at 4am, and by 4:20 I was in the car, in the dark, eastbound and down. It started raining this side of Springfield, and rained most of the rest of the way.
But, by 1o-ish, you are there! And the rain stops and one of the first fun things you do is to drive around and see what has changed. Every day there is something new in Branson.
We have seen it all. We first went to Branson in 1978. At that time, there were 5 shows on the strip, and the daytime entertainment was: Silver Dollar City. Now, there are shopping malls and wonderful restaurants, and every imaginable tourist trap.
But for us, daytimes are for shopping.
This is one of my favorite views. I am sitting on a bench outside the green roof mall. I love the 4 spires reaching for the sky. The rain has gone and the sun could not be any more mighty.
Lunch is a Danna’s. I have never had a bad meal there.
Our supper left a lot to be desired. We have had supper at this same place for 5 or 6 years. This was the year that we decided not to go back to that place.
Dessert was at Billy Bobs.
Then it was off to the show.
I decided to see the Grand Jubilee. For musicianship, this is top of the line. Other people follow singers or stars. I follow musicians.
There is a trend in Branson towards more karoke style things. But when I pay out entertainment dollars, I want to see real music. Real singing. (I have no interest in seeing the current pop princess who can NOT sing, and who has to lip sync in order to be able to hit all her dance moves.)
I have even heard of – in the past – some Branson shows that will pull a parking lot attendant, put him in a show jacket, hand him an instrument and put him, a non musician, on stage.
That’s not what I want to see. I want to see and hear and observe Real Music.
Emcee Mike Patrick (right), will stand on this stage and tell you that every note you hear is played live. Every song you hear is sung live. (That’s Jamie Haage on the left, playing the character of Jim Dandy. He’s hilarious. And a talented musician to boot!)
For Branson, which is supposed to be:
How sad is it that that announcement is the exception, rather than the rule?
All musicians and singers at Grand Country are top notch.
I know that using backing tracks is standard across all spectrums of the music industry. Everyone does it. And I guess there are good ways to utilize the tech, and ways to use it to fake-out or cover up.
But, I find myself shaking my head. I have worked for DECADES to build my talent. If I go out there on stage, I am playing live. I am singing live. Right or wrong, hit your note or mess it up, in my opinion, play it live. That’s what a singer/musician should do.
And I’ve spent about 5 days, thinking about this blog post and thinking about taking this stand. I took the stand with my travel companions. When Mike Patrick announced they were singing and playing live on that stage, my travel companions applauded – as did I.
But the technology has evolved in so many ways. Am I taking a stand, which will later come back to bite me in the ass? I texted my (Oklahoma) audio engineer to ask if he used pitch correction on me in studio. He doesn’t use autotune, but he spoke in some technical language about recording options that cover some of the singer’s pitch issues. I guess nothing is absolute. The permutations and decisions that one can make in a recording studio are overwhelming.
I think back to our first time in studio. Don and I recorded a song “Mud Dog Hill” (video is over to the right). It was my first time in a big studio. I was ready. I had planned. I had arranged. We were prepared.
And our first time out of the gate, we got a better quality of recording than I ever thought I’d get by the END of our career. And this was the first time.
And I spent the next 3 weeks talking about that particular audio engineer (our Kansas engineer): He is amazing. He made us sound so good. He is super talented.
Don listened to me talk about the engineer for 3 weeks. Finally, one day he’d had enough. We were in his pickup going somewhere. He pointed at the CD player. He said, “Yes ____ is amazing and wonderful and talented, and we are lucky to get to work with him.” Then he pointed to the CD player. And he said, “But THAT – is US!”
Yeah. We played. We sang. We produced. We arranged.
We Made the Music!
We worked for it. Practiced. Built it. Got good enough.
Being a musician is not a small thing. It takes a long time to get good enough.
So, when I make a decision about where to spend my entertainment dollars, then maybe I’d like to follow people who have put the years worth of work into it, building it. Making music. Entertaining.
You never see the Strip this empty, but it is before 7 am and we are on our way to Breakfast.
So…did we have a good time?
Did it work? Did something about this magical place recharge me?
Well, I came home and made several proposals and got them sent out to the world. Yeah. The ‘sales’ part of creativity is just as intense as the ‘creative’ part of creativity.
Something in me woke up. Creativity bubbling to the surface.
One other sidebar:
A couple weeks ago, I did submit for an acting gig. The casting director is…shall we say, not quite respectful of people’s time. He lets things run down to the last minute, and leaves people hanging and doesn’t give enough time or notice.
So, a couple weeks ago, I made the submission. About 2 pm the day before, they wanted a photo sent to them. (which I had already sent). But I was at the day job, and didn’t have the right stuff with me. So, I emailed them and said I’d send the photo when I got back to my computer, which turned out to be after 7 pm. Keep in mind, they are filming the scene the next day.
Their email said, “We are considering using you tomorrow…” etc.
And I never heard from them again.
Until…the day before we go to Branson. We have our plans made. Other people are involved. I have already loaded the car in prep for the 4 am leave time.
At 4 pm the day before, the casting company started calling my cell. I was on duty at the day job and can’t exactly take personal calls all day long. These people called me 4 times between 4 and 6:30 pm. They left 1 voice mail and sent 1 text – with an emergency needing me to act the next day. Who knows what the call time would have been?
If I hadn’t had plans, would I have gone?
Yeah..probably. It was my day off, and I do enjoy my acting gigs.
But still…for them to leave something to soooo late, then expect everyone to jump and heave to, to accommodate their schedule – without planning ahead…
Yeah…when we are working with other people, we really, really try to be respectful of their time and efforts. And not treat them like objects who only exist to serve our needs.
The final tally:
Movie company: ZERO!!!
So, this week, I had another one of those “miracle” writing sessions. I have had a musical in mind for about a year now. I had made some notes on it, but then put it away. And it bubbles around in my head, until it’s done “cooking” and it’s ready to come out.
I never know when these things are going to happen. But when they are done, then they are done. So, this week…guess what? I started writing a full length, whole size, intended-for-Broadway, musical.
We’ve written two musicals before. One is on the short side of full-length, with 4 songs. One was a ten minute play, with one dialog song and one dance.
So, this time, I’m flying solo, and writing it by myself, and it’s planned for 15 songs. (I added one, which brings the total to 16). And you have to write to the story. You can’t just write a random song, and stick it in this play. It’s got to fit. It’s got to advance the story. It’s got to be one piece of a puzzle–yet not so far out there, that the people hear a song and go, “What? WHY?”
This was yet another “miracle” writing session, in which, the story flowed. Words poured out me. They don’t happen very often, but when they do–you just gotta go with it. When you’re done writing for the day-you collapse. You can’t stand up straight. Literally. Some of these days, I have poured so much life force energy, into the writing and the story, that I may have to lie in bed, in some semi-state of unconscious, for hours afterward.
So, I estimate that 80% of this project is done. Just this week. Of the 16 songs, I have 12 completed. 2 were from my catalog, already written, that I could incorporate in. (On one, I had to add a bridge today, to fit the story.) But ten are new, and styled to the doctrine of the musical.
It’s one more “project” (almost) ready to go. I’m building up this arsenal of creative projects: ready to go out and slay the world.