“Bach in Wartime”, and New Song!

One thing Brian Eno points out, is that art should be an extension of an artist’s philosophy of all life. Some might say that the effect is similar to the observations of anthropologists who note that members of a culture are unable to accurately perceive their own culture. Many times this is done unintentionally; we don’t take time to self-reflect and parse the weeds to suss out a “life-philosophy”.

But we artists ARE communicating something.

What is that something?

Is it the same thing that I’d want to communicate?

It could be chaos and its descendants. Punk rock. Rock n roll deconstruction from nihilism made sound waves.

It could be the excruciating and exact reproduction of the image of a ship (like the Neo-classicists).

It could be transcendence through beauty. (Like the Existentialists/Romantics)


Maybe Dadism and Surrealism strikes your fancy? Letting anti-art wash over your mind, allowing neural pathways to try to create order where there is none.


So you can see where I’m going—philosophy influences style.
Shoenberg, Webern and Berg needed a way to communicate the heartbreaking horror of the Holocaust, and they settled into atonal 12-tone serialism.
In her fantastic collection of reflections Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle comments that folks love Bach in wartime because even tempos, fully functional harmony, and deliberate cadences gives us a sense of structure, rigidity, and security. In peacetime people can dance. They can experiment.


What other examples can you think of?
There’s a musician I’m familiar with that only uses modular synths from a certain era ALSO is a Quaker and tries to put the Quaker view of plainness and simplicity into all his work—something I found very interesting and to my point.
Limitations for a Creative System
As I’ve mentioned, I’m in the deep of tracking a new full length record, Precious Melodies Against Satan’s Devices, and it should be released by the fall! I’m very stoked on the new songs, and I discovered years ago that creative limitations help the whole thing go quicker. I generally make records by myself, and limitations help create the “voice” of other band members, dissidents, opposing view points from which to carom—without ever talking to a soul. I look at the “Fredkin Paradox principle—(your decisions take longer the more similar your options) which I’ve written about before, and I use the creative limitations to create riverbanks for my creative stream to flow through.
The last record (Unreliable Narrator) I had a few limitations:
  • No electric guitars (broke this one, but that’s ok)
  • Always choose the weird way – between two choices, I’d choose the one more elaborate, baroque, or rabbit-trailed
  • Drum programming over live drums
If you’ve listened to the previous record (Slingblades of Husbandry) you may notice an inverse relationship. Slingblades centers around electric guitars, economical pop songwriting, and live-band drum and room sounds. Many of the artistic/musical movements listed above are reactions to other movements on that list. In fact, ALL artistic movements are reacitons against other philosophies, trends, and movements.
Current Limitations for Precious Melodies Against Satan’s Devices
now I’m trying a few different things, I have a type of album-structure archetype that I like to follow, mostly dynamically and a “vibe” kind of thing. Maybe that’s a whole ‘nother blog for the future.
  • Thinking about a fictional band and sticking to a lower number of tracks for the arrangement.
  • Try to use more “live” instruments: MicroBrute, Juno, rather than in-the-box instruments. But if they sound better, then hey.
  • I wanted to use a Rickenbacker electric through a Vox AC-30 for the backbone of most tracks. I wasn’t able to get my hands on one (if you have one you’re looking to lend me or sell, hit me up!) so I’m borrowing an SG. I’ve been sticking to single-coils the last decade or so, especially my Jazzmaster.
I like fast ones, slow ones, that means really upbeat/driving, and at least one acoustic one thrown in there to really bring down the whole dynamic level. I actually tracked that one yesterday, and here is a link to an unfinished version, just for the followers of this site! It’s called “Shine for You”.


Watching: Orange Is The New Black – S3
Listening: Candy Butchers – Hang On Mike
Reading: Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Playing: Alien Isolation (XBOX 360)
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Jesus, Etc.

Advent Calendar?

Unreliable Narrator, the new record, is on the iTunes store, Spotify, Rdio and all streaming services, so pick your poison, but make sure it’ll kill you! I mean make sure you enjoy and get bummed out by the new record! Also, you may have noticed the site’s new look! Hope ya dig. Next in the hopper, I’m re-doing the SOUNDS page to include lyrics and maybe some other assorted goodies, but seriously, if there is something you’d like to see, drop me a line.
Xmas is coming up soon, right? Keeping crazy grading term papers and songs, filling out shopping lists, Advent is already here in full swing, and I’ve been going through my Spotify Xmas playlist. If you want a serene vibe (as I much of the time do), you could do a lot worse than Mark Kozelek’s (Sun Kil Moon, Red House Painters, etc.) new one, Sings Christmas Carols. The Band has a great standalone song off ’77’s Islands. (ht DZ) Firstly, it’s an interesting choice to include a Christmas song on a “regular” album, however sublime it may be. Especially in the middle of the record? I guess it would close the first side of the record, but jeez. However it has synth quirkiness, and I’m crazy about dead, dead, drums like Helm’s sound on this track. Hungry to try something similar on upcoming projects. Even though I just put out music last week, my mind is only forward thinking, I’m a cerebral shark; if I stop moving, I die.
Almost done reading S. King’s On Writing, I’ll have some assorted thoughts on that next time, but for today I’ll leave a quote that has been burrowing in my mind:
“Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” — S. King, “On Writing”.
Art is the reflection, the mirror of the world. It let’s us see ourselves, and our world, but it is no substitute for the world, relationships. C.S. Lewis expands on this in The Great DivorceA painter goes to the afterlife and exclaims his excitement about getting Heaven down on canvas. He is told that he’s got it backwards—he’s looking at what the painting is supposed to represent, the hidden paradise, the light peeking through the tear in the lampshade. He goes away, sorrowful. We hear a guide say:
“Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him”
For the love of God, the Cosmic King had himself born in a dog bowl.
Merry Xmas.
Listening: Serial Podcast. For real, amirite?
Watching: The One I Love, Netflix
Reading: Stephen King, On Writing
Playing: DragonAge II for Xbox 360

That’s Right! UNRELIABLE NARRATOR Available Now! FRESH FROM THE COW!

What’s up bearcats and gentlefolk. Took a bit of a break from blogging the past month. Lotsa stuff flying down the stress sewer. The most important one is that I put out a new record on Tuesday, UNRELIABLE NARRATOR!

Unreliable Narrator Artwork

Sublime design by Aaron Stearns

And it feels real good. It’s been a year since I’ve have started recording it, and I can now breathe a big sigh of relief that the album baby is slick with placenta and out floundering about the planet!

Big THANKS to everybody(!) especially if you’ve been a purchaser! Right now you can check the record out by clicking on SOUNDS in the above header menu, or just clicking HERE. And for all you Spotify and Rdio heads, full digital distro is coming next week!

In the next number of weeks I’ll probably take some time to flesh out the stories behind some of the songs on the record; I love to geek at other writers when they do that dishing. but for today, I wanted to wrap up some thoughts I talked about in my last post. So I also just finished my first NaNoWriMo, where one attempts to write a draft of a 50,000 word novel (think about the length of The Great Gatsby) in 30 days. There were a handful of times I almost gave up, but I broke the 50,000 words on time, and “won”. Absolutely was a blast. There’s no way I’ll do it again for a couple of years—I have enough editing to do for probably that long—but I learned a number of cool things along the way.

FRIENDS ARE COOL

I wouldn’t have made it without my pals to talk to about the process, especially Daniel and Corey. Feedback, brain dumping, and complaining to them and competing with them helped spur me on. That’s it.

CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE

“The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.” – J. C. Kromsigt

My wife and I have been rabid about the Serial Podcast, and have spent many nights in our bed in the dark, languishing while my iPhone 5s spins the sordid tale of Adnan Sayed. An absolute must-listen. Produced by the This American Life crowd. Earlier this year, Ira Glass wrote a superb statement regarding the chasm between your taste and the actual work that many of us make in reality. The whole thing is worth the read, especially when it comes to letting yourself off the hook to just work and not immediately assess.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

MINIMIZING SELF-DOUBT

Along with this idea is the continual reoccurring plague. No, not Ebola, but second guessing myself every few days about whether I was wasting my time. I became lost in the whole enormous project, and no longer could see the forest for the trees. I understood why Hunter S. Thompson typed out pages and passages from The Great Gatsby (you just knew this was coming back around–too clunky and Chekov’s gun-ny), to just “feel what it would be like to write the great American Novel.” There is something to this idea. Becoming another’s work for a while. It might be learning a cover song, re-reading the same chapter five times to get the mechanics, or literally re-typing someone else’s work. To inhabit another’s work is to taste the excellency of mechanics. I have a Beatles’ fakebook, and I regularly go thru and learn the songs, and I’ve already seen the impact on my own songwriting.

“For anything great to happen, there needs to be a long obedience in the same direction.” – Nietzsche


Maybe after I edit the novel I’ll throw it up on this site for anyone that likes supernatural thrillers featuring ex-priest “fixers” and evil Nephilim. But until then, you can enjoy UNRELIABLE NARRATOR!

Alt cover design

                      Alt cover design

And again, UNRELIABLE NARRATOR is available for:

  • The #1 spot on your Best of 2k14 music list
  • Working off those T-Giving L.B.’s
  • Final Exam study soundtracking
  • Digital stocking stuffers
  • Making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs