Posts Tagged recording

2016 in Review: The Year of Other People’s Music

2016 was largely the Year of Other People’s Music, as almost everything I worked on was either a cover piece or collaborative project.

The year’s centerpiece was the July release of my fourth album, Souls Adrift, in Disrepair, most of which was recorded in 2015. You can read the album story here.

The only solo piece I worked on in ‘16 – on New Year’s Day – was a take on an idea that has since been composed for a collaborative album. This improvised fretless/EBow whirlwind, The Four Directions Seemed Aflame, will be on the upcoming guitar improv album, The White Island, which is nearly finished and should be the next release.

In 2016, I also wrote guitar parts for two pieces, intended for a duo album with one my favorite musicians, and recorded one of them. That project is still in its infancy.

During the late summer 2015 studio frenzy, I recorded a 20-minute piece for a singer with whom I have long dreamed of working. So, one of my greatest joys of 2016 was receiving the recording of her stellar performance. She utterly nailed it. Pieces such as Like a Riven Cloud and Fading Angel will give you an idea of emotional power in this one. It’s going to close out…. probably Album 8, for which nothing else has been done yet. So that is probably two years away. It will wring out your heart, I can promise.

At my 2015 Sulzer Library concert, I played a 12-string solo version of the Enya piece Sumiregusa. I sent the recording to a musician friend and fellow Enya fan, who loved it. Toward the end of ‘16, I was delighted to receive her invitation to arrange and record 12-string parts for two pieces from her new album. Each is a rich synth/voice drone, around 15 minutes long. I’ve done my parts for one of them, and expect to the other to be done soon.

This will be the second album on which I’ve played a guest role, and I have another invitation to record some drumming for a friend’s album. This material may be used more-or-less as is, or mangled beyond recognition, or both. That recording is expected to happen in January – a good way to start the year.

While I’m not optimistic about the Enya piece ever being released, I have much higher hopes for my arrangement of Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, which is a recording priority for 2017. I first arranged this in 2010, working from the composer’s string quartet version, but this was impossible to arrange properly for one guitar. Luckily, I discovered that the original strings-and-percussion score works easily.

My arrangement for electric guitar and sampled percussion is straight off the score, but I play it much more slowly, and it occupies a huge space. I can’t wait to play this one live…

Thanks for reading, and all the best for 2017!

singing-bowl-shakers-nov16

New Toys for The Keep, Nov. ’16

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Souls Adrift, in Disrepair: the Album Story

Front Cover

Painting copyright (c) by Royce Deans. Used with permission of the artist.

I’m delighted to announce the upcoming release of my fourth album, Souls Adrift, in Disrepair, on my Kalindi Music label. It will be available by download on July 12 and on CD shortly thereafter. The album’s release page is here.

I think of the album as… three guitar symphonies, a dark drift and an elegy. Possibly an oversimplification, but close enough to be helpful.

Four of the album’s five pieces are reworked improvisations from my April 2012 multimedia jam with art painters Royce Deans & Tali Farchi.

I had met Royce & Tali a mere five days beforehand (thanks, Eve!), towards the end of their 6-week residency in downtown Chicago (part of the Pop-Up Loop series), and we just went for it.

Many thanks to Royce & Tali for making the day, and for lending me their inspiring artwork for the CD package.

Back Cover

Painting copyright (c) by Tali Farchi. Used with permission of the artist.

As always, every piece has a story…

Of the pieces which began as live improvs, Fading Angel needed the least rewriting to reach its final form. For the recording, I set aside my usual live playing approach and recorded all six guitar parts separately, playing them all the way through without looping. This approach allowed me, on each pass, to vary tempo, phrasing, and dynamics – unlike looping, where each repetition is exactly the same – and to interact with the previously-recorded parts even more closely than I can when looping.

I also did this for the other two guitar-driven pieces, and anticipate doing so for recording similar pieces going forward.

Astral Drift creates an unsettling atmosphere, using processed metallics, ocarina, voices and breath with an occasional guitar chord, and a few brush strokes of synths to keep us grounded, so we don’t go spiraling off into the void.

Sirens of Maya is built on a loop that’s all electric guitar harmonics, an approach I later ported over to acoustic guitar for Snowdance in Starlight on my album Divinations. Sirens of Maya is a three-part canon, but those parts aren’t strictly synchronized, which makes it a loose canon (someone had to do this). I had some more fun with my EBow on this piece, and I’m getting pretty good at hitting just the right amount and drawing back – before anything breaks. I also mixed up the guitars more than usual, using 6- and 12-strings as well as the fretless.

A live version of Sirens of Maya is the album’s pre-order bonus.

Transcending Memory features my Danelectro electric 12-string tuned to Alexander Scriabin‘s famous mystic chord. This piece was a lot of fun to record and should be a blast to play live. The 12-string lines carve out an eerie space, over a roaring processed singing bowl drone.

At This Body’s Final Hour closes out the album with a plaintive piano melody over a haunting synth-guitar blend, occasionally punctuated by a thumping bass drum and featuring a chorus of chanting voices (thanks to Dasi & Leyla for joining in). The instrumental track slows to half-speed over its 18 minutes.

So what’s with the album title, anyway?

Well, it goes something like this:

The album is dedicated to the memory of our longtime companions, Sandor Cat (who passed on two days after the performance with Royce & Tali), and his brother Kalman Cat, who left us two years later. Sandor’s six-week illness was a difficult time, and was hanging thick in the air when showtime rolled around.

So I wanted the album and track titles to convey something of the gravitas of the time. For me it sums up the material world, with us struggling our way through it. Fish out of water. A suitable continuation of themes ruminated upon in the Separate Ones album, this closes a circle in some ways. Other circles await.

I was also looking for something powerfully descriptive, like many of Dirk Serries‘ wonderful titles. I’m well aware of the cognitive dissonance of the word “disrepair” in this context – which is way more animé than I intend – and that it may at first be read as “despair”, which is way more “emo” than I intend, but anyway…

Sandor Cat

Track list:
1. Fading Angel   9.41
2. Astral Drift   17.17
3. Sirens of Maya   12.55
4. Transcending Memory   15.55
5. At This Body’s Final Hour   18.04

Here is a preview clip, with highlights from all five pieces:

I hope you find the album enjoyable, and worth purchasing. Many thanks for your support!

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2015 in Review: Many Seeds Got Planted

This year’s composition and recording trajectory might best be described as an ellipse. The two focal points were (1) my two live shows in June and July, and (2) an 8-day recording blitz in August. Everything gravitated around those two periods.

I usually take advantage of the statutory holidays from January to May to spend time in The Keep, and that’s when much of a year’s composition work gets done. Somehow, that didn’t happen this year – but I’ll do my best to rectify that in ’16.

This year, it took the two summer performances to get my composition mojo going, with some surprising results. I started each show with a trio of solo guitar pieces, beginning with First Day Apart, and concluding with Fading Angel (which opens the next album, and which was born as a post-First Day Apart live improv), with a new improvisation in between.

Imagine my delight when the two performances, and two rehearsals, yielded three releasable versions of this new improv piece! It was clear at once that an album of solo guitar improvisations should be compiled, which is already nearly half-done. I’ll try one on the 12-string, and one on the fretless, and one on the mandolin…

My wife Dasi, whose photography graces the Divinations and Memory Palace albums, took a bunch of great photos of an early-November sky over Lake Michigan, with the color schemes changing constantly. So, artwork for the improv album is already in hand.

Another releasable artifact from these shows is a riotous version of Rebuild From Memory, which has cemented my resolve to put together a live album someday.

Dasi went camping with friends for two weeks in August. Thus freed from any obligation to keep our apartment fit for civilized habitation, I hunkered down in The Keep and recorded four pieces (about 65 minutes’ worth of music) in eight days. Three of them are for Album 4: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair.

The fourth piece is for a singer friend of mine, and I’ll put the finishing touches on that after she sends it back. That is simply going to be amazing. She’s a terrific singer whom I’ve wanted to work with since I discovered her ten years ago.

Another piece for the Souls Adrift album was written and mostly recorded a few weeks later, so only one piece remains to finish that album. It’s written and just needs to be recorded.

So… what’s the plan for 2016? The answer was somewhat simplified when, in the past few months, I made a critical decision that was a long time coming: after the albums in progress, all new solo work will be written in Just Intonation. A liner note on a Robert Rich album opened that door for me some years back, and I’m finally stepping through.

That has really tightened my focus, which is always a good thing. Some contemplated projects have necessarily fallen away. The Concerto for Ambient Orchestra, in which nearly a dozen of my peers had expressed interest in participating, will now be a solo project – hopefully before 2040…

Another project simply ran out of gas: the covers album I had planned since 2010. Hope remains for three of those pieces, though: one is Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, though I’m still struggling with trying to arrange it for one guitar. Some of those chord changes are simply crazy. The other – and more likely – one is… big secret. It’s going to be a riot, and probably a standalone release. Luckily for me, the original music is in the public domain now. The third one is another work in progress, which I hope will make it onto the live album.

All my dreams of classical prestige have bitten the dust, although if some ambitious string quartet or choir should take a shine to me…

Of course, collaborations will be exempt from the JI Directive. Chris Russell and I knew long ago that we wanted to make a second album. It won’t be Memory Palace II. That’s just a matter of finding one more burner on the stove. Another duo with a new collaborator is still at the hopeful stage.

So, 2016 will be mostly about finishing work in progress. Barring something unforeseen, Album 5 will be the Guitar Improv album, and Album 6 will be an initiation/journey story project, inspired by a workshop I played three years ago, which could grow to a double-CD. I entertain grandiose hopes of recording at least some of that in a large church (and using their pipe organ). Album 7 includes the collaboration with the singer, and maybe another guest artist or two. Those albums, hopefully culminating in a live release, will mark the end of a phase – my solo Equal-Temperament composition phase and, hopefully, my recording apprenticeship.

Hopefully before 2040… because the JI World is beckoning, and it promises to be even more exciting than everything that’s happened so far.

2015 was also a stellar year for hearing some of my musical heroes play live, and meeting them for the first time. That would be Steve Roach (twice), Robert Rich (whom I finally met properly at my third concert of his), and long-time Americana idols Eric Tingstad & Nancy Rumbel. Much gratitude for their endless inspiration.

I also got to hear prog-rock demigod Steve Hackett for the first time, a few weeks ago, and hope to do so again. I don’t listen to much rock anymore, but he’s always been one of the cats…

Happy 2016 to all!

GM in Keep, Dec 27-15

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Guest Blog by Chris Russell: Our Journey to the Memory Palace

Guest blogger alert:

It’s a pleasure to turn the page over to my collaborator Chris Russell, for his perspective on making the Memory Palace album:

Chris RussellThe journey to this palace has been a long, rewarding and sometimes frustrating journey. But so worth it in the end. Greg contacted me late 2010 to work on an album and we were off running. This was to be our first release using drums and odd time rhythms in our music. I have played with loops in the past, but never really applied acoustic or tribal drums to my music until work on this album came up. This immediately took me out of my comfort zone and at times became a challenge that led me to re-do my parts, two, sometimes three, times before I could hand the piece off to Greg.

Life events for both of us would slow production down on this album and it became clear to not rush the music and let this album slowly develop over time. That probably is what helped the most for me, living with the music for brief periods of time and then after a hiatus coming back to the project with fresh ears.

Fast forward to 2014 and Greg and I are at the end of our journey to the Memory Palace, but this is only the beginning of our adventure.

I look forward to the next chapter.

***

Thanks, Chris!

As might be deduced from the above, Chris and I knew, even before Memory Palace was finished, that another project was in our future, and the general direction it would take. Stay tuned!

A shout-out here to (1) the Relaxed Machinery artistic community, where we connected shortly after its inception, early in 2010; and (2) the rM label, which has released most of Chris’ albums to date. There’s a long list of excellent releases which I highly recommend!

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Right Here Right Now: a Status Snapshot

This is cool: my buddy John Koch-Northrup, who runs the Relaxed Machinery music label and artistic community, just posted an “instant interview” of 10 questions. I always have fun with this sort of thing (see my “Credo” post, which came about in a similar way), so I thought it would serve as a handy quick update for anyone who’s cruising by. More soon!

1.  What is your main project right now?

New album: Souls Adrift, in Disrepair. Postproduction almost finished, waiting for the artwork to be emailed so I can process that. “Story of the album” blog coming soon…

2.  Do you have additional projects in the works as well?

Eight of them. And that’s only counting the projects for which composition and recording have begun.

3.  What motivated any of these projects? Influence? Inspiration?

The usual: Life the Universe and Everything.

4.  What do you hope to achieve?

Ultimately, a symphonic ambient fusion of my favorite musical genres, in Just Intonation. It’s years away…

5.  How do you release your work?

On CD, on my own label (and hopefully others), and by download.

6.  Desert Island Items?

16-track mixer, another Roland Loop Station, upright electric bass (just thought of that today!). Of course, if I get that, my wife might just send me to a damn desert island…

7.  If you could tell your young self something about your creative career you’ve learned – what would it be?

Stop dabbling and get serious!

8.  How do you hope your works will be remembered?

To recycle that phrase I cooked up recently: as ritual, soul-shaking, deepcore magic.

9.  If you could have only one ‘tool’ what would it be?

Electric guitar through a computer full of FX.

10.  Who do you hope will answer these questions in the community?

Max Corbacho. But I’m not going to bug him…

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eyes cast down 2013 Promo Sampler – Available for Free Download

Cranberry Lake, NY

The annual ritual…

I’ve compiled an up-to-date mix of clips from 16 pieces into a 55-minute promotional montage, covering the entire spectrum of the eyes cast down sound as it stands today, from serene atmospherics to power Zen to tribalism.

Electric and acoustic guitars, synths, percussion, voices – even live tabula-rasa laptop composition – they’re all here.

Some tracks are from published compilations, some are works in progress, and some from forthcoming albums. More than half are live recordings.

It breaks out something like this:

1. Exquisite Divination of Patterns (Conception; Free Floating netlabel)
2. I Am but a Fledgling… (live; work in progress)
3. Darklight Canon (forthcoming album)
4. Radiant Perception (unreleased)
5. Snowdance in Starlight (all is calm 2012; Free Floating netlabel)
6. Resounding State of Silence (live; forthcoming album)
7. Crystalline (all is calm 2011; Free Floating netlabel)
8. First Expanse (live; work in progress)
9. Emerge (live; work in progress)
10. Haven (live; work in progress)
11. Fading Angel (live; forthcoming album)
12. Ensō (live laptop composition; unreleased)
13. … New to Flight (live; work in progress)
14. Mystic Memory (live; forthcoming album)
15. Last of His Breed (Oceans & S4G Mix I; Sound For Good label)
16. Om Hari Om (live; forthcoming album)

Like the Separate Ones album preview mix, this sampler is available for free download and non-commercial distribution, from my Bandcamp store – along with an optional Media Page, a two-page color PDF including photos, Bio and Raves. I hope you find it enjoyable.

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A Fledgling, New to Flight

After a five-month break, during which I played only one live event (a laptop-driven atmosphere for an art show opening in mid-May), I emerged from The Keep in September for a workshop and my highest-profile concert so far.

Having determined to begin exploring a more earthy, tribal sound, I recently added a djembe and clay pot drum to the percussion section. And for these shows I finally got to bring along my keyboard controller, as there were no space constraints. So I had the artistically-necessary feeling of leaving behind the safety of the nest. This timing was perfect, especially given the nature of the first event.

September 15: the Carving Through Shadow workshop was an exploration in going within and expressing the journey through drawings. I’ve been keen on working in such a situation since I started playing live, so I was jazzed to finally have a chance to give it a try.

The music followed the workshop’s three-part program:

1. Getting Comfortable was a purely atmospheric, slow-moving and fairly minimal synth zone. It’s a great pleasure playing around in this mode.

2. Getting Uncomfortable, an inward descent, got down, dirty and earthy. The whole percussion section came out for this.

Getting past some discomfort of my own, I finally undertook to use my voice as an instrument, to open another door inward. Immediately, a couple of the participants joined in, giving voice to their own work. That was a good start, for a direction which I hope to pursue down the road. (Anyone know an overtone voice teacher anywhere near Chicago?)

3. A New Way was about coming back up to the surface and integrating what was discovered. For this I used mostly layered guitar loops.

The energy was good all around, as everyone came ready to go for it. Many thanks to expressive arts therapist Eve Brownstone for running the event, and to everyone who took part!

Set List:

1. Haven
2. Inanna
   First Day Apart
3. Emerge

eyes cast down Live Rig

September 25: Music of Many Worlds – concert at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, under Picasso’s famous unnamed steel giant, as part of the Daley’s lunch-hour concert series.

Chicago Picasso - Photo by J Crocker 2004

Photo by J. Crocker, 2004

This show also celebrated the one-year anniversary of my move from Toronto to Chicago.

To help capture the mood, I picked up a wonderful eagle T-shirt from the Amerinkas gift shop. So now it’s a feeling of leaving the safety of the eyrie – hopefully to soar.

Apropos of this, the most exciting development from this show is the Fledgling suite, which came about of its own volition. Three pieces that were intended to be separate simply drew together (both musically, and as a concept, when their titles turned up). The middle one, First Expanse, is modeled on one of those formative studio jams from Spring 2004 (see my First Iterations blog).

Like many pieces from this year’s shows, these are works in progress, hybrids of composition and improv, trying out some cool ideas. I’m excited to see how they move forward; Fledgling could end up being the centerpiece of an album as well as live shows.

eyes cast down Live at Daley Plaza 9-25-12

The program was completed by guitar staples First Day Apart and Radha’s Tears, which will open and close the Separate Ones album, along with one cover: Future Tribe, from the Serpent’s Lair album. I’ve dreamed about opening live shows with this piece for years. Hopefully I’ll really nail it sometime, so I can send it to Steve and Byron.

Along with taking photos, my wife recorded about 20 minutes of video on her iPad, some of which I will post as soon as I can get it together.

Big thanks to the team at Daley Plaza for helping to make this happen!

Set List:

Future Tribe (Roach/Metcalf)
First Day Apart
I Am But a Fledgling…
First Expanse
… New to Flight
Radha’s Tears

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