11. Etiquette


How are you today?  Are you okay?  I hope so.  Thank you for reading and listening today.  I’m a little blue, but I think I was due for a blue day.  I’ve had some really red ones as of late, so blue isn’t so bad.  This week has been full, so I decided to empty my mind a little and create something in which to put the contents.

Baltimore. Oh, how you are a city I visit sometimes.

Etiquette: There are two separate recordings of people talking here.  One set of recordings is a microphone being hung from a stairwell near a circle of unsuspecting people who were in a living room in Baltimore, taken a few days ago.  Used here, it has been duplicated and the tracks off-set.  The other is a recording of the same group of people, minutes later, with a microphone on the table in front of them.  There was an bit of a change in demeanor and conversation when the latter happened.  Ironically, the topic of discussion in the recordings where the mic was unseen was about social etiquette; but it’s also interesting since it’s not exactly polite to record people without them unknowing.  (Who knows, maybe they knew?)  Hence, the title.  I made them do some hand claps for me.  Even that was a bit uncomfortable for them.  I suppose someone walking into the middle of your conversation requesting hand claps might create an odd vibe.  I had them clap a steady rhythm and then later I cut them up “by hand” into single claps and placed them where I wanted them.

At Ugly Purple Sweater‘s house I found a thumb piano which I used for this little piece.  I played it for a few minutes and found a melody and progression.  I really like this thumb piano.  I have one of my own, but I like this one better.  I sat in their bathroom on the floor to record this which took about 15 minutes.  I love the overtones of this instrument so much.  I thought of over-dubbing some cello, but just couldn’t do it.  It was so lovely as it was.  A tiny bit effect was used on it, but overall, it’s just as it sounds in real life.

The thumb piano, after stumbling initially, attempts consistency to the end until it’s done, ever traveling, only wavering for a second or so here or there.  The hand claps come in and out, sporadic and random, though for a few seconds they might come together “perfectly” or at least complimentary, each affecting the other: voices affecting harmony, claps affecting rhythm, and sometimes, vice versa if you get distracted listening for it all…


instrumentation: thumb piano, hand claps, Baltimore-people in a blue house.

8 thoughts on “11. Etiquette

  1. *Creeping way back*

    This is so cool! I absolutely love this track and all you did to get it: the sneaking around, forcing people to speak and clap at your will. It makes for an amazing story (which I’m glad you told because I was wondering about it from the moment I pushed play).

    Going to have to bookmark this one and listen to it more.

  2. You sneaky bitch. Regardless, this song is perfect. Ethereal and astounding. You’re really not taking this project for granted, are you? I love that you’re making the most of every sound and an opportunity out of every recording. Love.

  3. I love the experimental nature of this song. I wish I had the b-donk-i-dongs to try something like this. The sounds of the conversations and the tones of the thumb piano are inspired, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my soul around the whole song. I like the direction the song takes me if not the destination quite yet. But keep churning out sparkly bits of magic like this, ’cause it gets my brain and my heart a-turnin’.

    • Yes! I love your honesty! Perfect! I myself actually had a hard time wrapping myself around this, too, but I knew that what it was… kind of like when you see a bird in the sky, you know it’s a bird and not a plane, but not sure what kind it is because of its distance from you. It will come down sooner or later for a closer look, I hope!

      • Hopefully it is the kind of bird that will sit on your shoulder and recruit some friendly mice and other birds to help you get dressed and comb your hair in the morning. Or file your quarterly taxes!

  4. In the Portland Saturday Market there’s a guy that sells beautiful handcrafted thumb pianos (Mbira). I’ve always wanted to buy one. This song makes me want to even more — such a great tone and song.

    I have a good friend that lives in Brooklyn that writes a lot of music on his thumb pianos. This reminded me of him. I really should introduce you two because I think you’d both enjoy collaborating.

    Here’s a one-minute video of him playing his thumb piano with a contact pickup and a looping pedal that I think you’ll dig. He even sings into the thumb piano.


  5. Sam and Rachel are, I submit, the first people to hear this. And we love it! The claps sound so good! Your consistency in quality songs thus far is astounding.


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