13. Three Knotted Napkin

DAY THIRTEEN

So Lucky.

Good morning.  I realize I’m a bit past my 12 am posting time, however, I have a good excuse.  I played a totally awesome venue tonight in Biddeford, Maine called the Hog Farm Annex.  It is a beautiful venue run by wonderful people.  If you are in the area, please stop in and chat with Coco and Gil: the sweet couple who founded and run Hog Farm.  Amazing.

Peforming "Little Sunshine" at Hog Farm Annex with Jonathan Clark. Photo courtesy of G. Capecelatro

Today’s installment is brought to you in part by Guy Capecelatro III.  Guy is one of the most incredible people I’ve met while on the east coast.  I met him whilst touring with dear friend Anna Vogelzang to Portsmouth, New Hampshire two years ago.  He is an unbelievably gifted and prolific songwriter, working tirelessly on his craft and constantly searching for new ideas and motivations.  He is always collaborating and recording with someone or other and has fascinating insights into the song writing process and how to keep it fresh.   He has been a wonderful inspiration to me in starting and continuing on in this project without fear.

We started this pretty much the minute I got into Portsmouth and finished just in time for me to run to my gig in Biddeford.  First came choosing what to do: we decided on looking for beats we liked in garageband and slowing them down immensely.  On top of those we layers we added other midi instruments (including a sweet-ass Harp! Nice!).  As we listened together to the progress of our song, we tried different sounds, deciding where we needed long lines verses shorter ones, etc., and finding other sounds that we could slap in there: somewhat a game of chance, in a way.  I like working this way because I’m usually always pleased and surprised by some great happy accident which occurs.

Peforming at Hog Farm Annex. Photo courtesy of G. Capecelatro

Guy suggested a long sonic line was needed over harp sections (which I just improvised on his midi keyboard), so I improvised a vocal melody intending for it to sound as if it were in a different key, from a different place, but somehow functioned with the surrounding material convincingly.  This is a difficult exercise for me: hearing one key but singing in another.  I’m not sure I was totally successful, but it was good to try.   I liked how we worked; we weren’t extremely perfectionist about things we’d put down. (I had to swallow this up because it would have impeded our progress, and that’s dumb to do when things are fun.)  We added a cool instrument  Guy had called a shruti box (which I actually keep mistaking as cell phone interference in the “second movement” of the song), an organ-sounding instrument you pump with one hand and turn knobs to adjust the drone’s pitches with the other hand.  He then added a improvised bass line, and I added an improvised track from my black violin (played in the fashion of a cello, of course.)

Guy and Jonathan and I were walking back from having lunch, and we pass an elementary school with kids playing outside in their winter gear and a large back-hoe operating just outside the fenced yard.  Guy pulled out his iPhone and recorded sounds as we passed this scene which he added into this work as well.  I’m impressed with the recording quality of the iPhone.  Almost makes me want to raise my phone bill just to own one.

Finally, I asked Guy if he would write lyrics or sing a melody over my vocal line.  What he came up with so haunting and beautiful.  His voice is so unique, and I wanted to capture it on this song for you to hear.

I really enjoy working with Guy.  He’s constantly thinking and coming up with new ideas of how to collaborate and write creatively.  I’m constantly surprised at the way these collaborations are unfolding.  It’s really fascinating.  It is now 2:30 am, and I’m exhausted, so it’s bed for me!

Three Knotted Napkin

instrumentation: shruti box, two field recordings, electric bass, violin (altered tuning), midi harp, samples, Guy Capecelatro III

Until tomorrow! I’m still in New Hampshire soaking up the sun from under a heated blanket. Burrrrr.

Stay well, and may I suggest having at least one piece of gummy candy this week for your own well being (okay, maybe just my own well-being then).

EHP

12. Fifteen Pieces of Flare

I read something today that implied (only implied, saying that something else was manageable…) that this 365 Project of mine was unmanageable.  For the first time since starting I felt defeated.  I know the comment wasn’t meant at all to offend me personally, but I took it personally and became discouraged.  I don’t want to think in terms of manageable and unmanageable.  This is part of my work, part of my study.  Isn’t it?  Is bathing and grooming yourself every day unmanageable?  Is parenting unmanageable?  Loving someone unmanageable?  Are these examples unmanageable?  (For some, yes.)  I’m just foaming now… Anyway, I started four different projects but all of them failed miserably.  (Yes, I used the word failed just then… okay, not failed, just not going anywhere…ugh.)

So, Discouragement: Kiss this.

Fifteen Pieces of Flare: I am dedicating this song to Rachel Lord of Ugly Purple Sweater and Jocelyn Mackenzie of Pearl and the Beard. And, yes, I love the movie Office Space.  I love the idea of “Pieces of Flare” actually being required.  So funny.  It’s almost a shame how long this song took me.  Since I’m leaving for a show tomorrow night in Biddeford, Maine, I had today to work and work, so I had time with which to write and record this one.  I have no excuse nor explanation for the theme of this song: it just came out like that.

I’m putting this song out there, and think that it came about being because I let myself just play and go along with what my cello said to me back without feeling stupid about it.  I’ve also done some pretty sad songs lately and felt it was time for a pick-me-up.  Someone said after hearing it, “Well, that came out of left field…”  Sure, but you can’t always write serious songs when you’re not always a serious person, right?  (Joc?)

Another point: this is done with voice and a single bowed cello, something I really dislike (See Day 3 Gloria).  I really believed it was against my better judgment to do it this way, but with all the other stuff on top, I don’t mind it at all.

The vocals were something else totally.  Really?  Make this voice public?  Hell, yes!

RHYMING!!! Ahhh! I HATE RHYMING!  So I just decided to do it ridiculously.  I only hate it because it doesn’t come naturally to me, and it’s really hard.  Want an example of incredible rhyming talent?  Please visit the myspace of Jocelyn Mackenzie and Jim Alteri: Poo Poo Jim & Pee Pee Girl.  Jocelyn is in Pearl and the Beard with me and Jim is the uber talented wonderfully gifted musician/social genius who is in love with Jocelyn (Joc: is that okay to put into print?)  Joc has this unbelievable gift for lyrics and rhyme: she can do it constantly and on the spot, being totally right on every time.  It’s amazing.  Come to a Pearl and the Beard show and you’ll witness it first hand!

Queen Lacey of the Laceykins

Basically everything was overdubbed.  Every. Thing. It. Took. For. Ever.  The thing I’m finding the hardest about this is my desire to make good recordings, not just always a demo per se.  By good, I mean, at the very least feigning hard work and make it something I want to listen to and play over and over, therefore hoping you feel the same way.  So I figure if I can work as hard as I can with what I know, it will at least be worth it to me when I’m 75, should I live that long, and if you like it, too: Awesome.

At the end of it, my dog, Lacey came and put her nose at the end of the bed and sighed into the mic, as if to say: “Will you please be done already?!”

Yes, Lacey.  I will be done.

See you tomorrow,

EHP

I went to heaven but you weren’t there
Guys from Hell said that your presence was rare
Your mom was wearing 15 pieces of flare
If your mom was there and you weren’t I don’t know where you’re going.
I went by our favorite restaurant
You won’t believe me, at that very moment
Struck down I was, a violent ailment
You’ll be sorry if this is the last time you’ll ever see me
Oh, darling, oh, sugar
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh baby, oh honey
It’s a constant battle of me and you.
I couldn’t help it so I went to your house
Record was playing, I believe it was Strauss
Walked right in, you were there like a louse
Whitey-tighties and what?! You got on my blouse?
Oh, darling, oh, sugar
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh, baby, Oh honey
It’s a constant battle of,  a constant battle of
Oh, peachy, gosh it’s funny
It’s a constant battle of me and you.
You coulda told me, you could’ve announced it
Always something missing from the back of my closet
It’s totally fine, and it always will be,
Just wish you would have told me!
Didn’t know your taste was eclectic
See I was worried, mornings always so hectic
Wardrobe missing made me apoplectic
Getting ready was anticlimactic
Oh, darling, oh, sugar
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh, baby, Oh honey
It’s a constant battle of, a constant battle of
Oh, peachy, gosh it’s funny
It’s a constant battle of me and you.

11. Etiquette

DAY ELEVEN

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…

Etiquette


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

10. A Thousand Thousands

DAY TEN

Sam McCormally (captured here in a I-have-a-day-job-sweater-dress-shirt-and-tie ensemble) and EHP

I have been on tour with Sam McCormally, a member of Ugly Purple Sweater, for the past four or so days.  Not only does he have one of the sexiest and absolutely gorgeous voices I’ve ever heard, but he is also an amazing songwriter and guitarist.  This tour was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with him.  Funny enough, I think we’re somewhat similar when it comes to writing (both in the technical aspects and in a few of the little insecurities that tend to occur), so it was eye-opening and a totally fulfilling creative experience for me.  If you haven’t heard of Ugly Purple Sweater, you need to have heard of them.  Their writing is probably unlike anything you’ve heard.  Their music is available at www.uglypurplesweater.bandcamp.com. (And if you want a recommendation, the song 2/3 Creatures is my personal favorite.)

I feel the writing of this song was fated to be with Sam.  I started this song on accordion with a little lilting rhythm but only had the first verse and had no idea where to go from there.  I loved it right away when it was born, but it is so emotionally close that I found myself procrastinating and sat on it for months and months.  Jocelyn heard the 10 seconds of it I had written and has been persistent in me finishing the song.  I put off even looking at it until last week and quickly pumped out a second verse, but I still got stuck.  Yesterday, I took the first two verses to Sam, and we pounded out changes in the verse, a chorus progression, melody and a bridge even before coming up with lyrics.  (It was Sam’s suggestion to put it into 5/8 time.  Absolutely perfect.)  According to Sam, he prefers to write music first, not lyrics, which is kind of foreign to me.  For me, most of the time, lyrics and music are born within a few seconds of each other.  We discussed a possible direction for lyrics, and he helped me find good color and intent.  I absolutely loved working with him.  Again, Sam?

The writing and recording took place in a friend’s bedroom in Baltimore, MD from about 4-9 pm (Right before our show!).  You’ll hear extraneous sounds here and there throughout- the kind of which I’ve heard cellist Zoe Keating describe as “artifacts”.  I like them- friends laughing downstairs, Sam’s breathing in the beginning, and even when I clear my voice before the first chorus.  I would argue that the chorus melody was mostly designed by Sam, and I can even hear Ugly Purple Sweater in it, which makes me smile; another fantastic reason to collaborate is being challenged with another melodic idea that wouldn’t have come to you naturally or might not be the easiest to sing or play (damn those high descending lines!).

With the mic balanced on the top of my cello case, we put down guitar and vocals simultaneously, preferring the third take, I think.  Sam’s vocals were laid down right after, though we redid them hours later because of an annoying buzzing.  Cello and other vocals were over-dubbed later.  This is yet another example of having to stop when I’d really rather not.  I can easily hear, and had planned, bowed cello lines, but I just ran completely out of time.  It’s obviously not perfectly engineered, but you’ll hear the intention, I hope.  I’m frustrated with the hiss I’m hearing, but I have done my best to improvise with what I have.  Hopefully, one day in the near future, we’ll be able to record this for real.

I really love this song.  It was a very personal experience  for me to see this song to such a high level in an amazingly short amount of time, and, to involve someone I deeply respect, makes me so grateful it happened this way.  Love you, Sam.

A Thousand Thousands

instrumentation: guitar, cello, and Sam McCormally

I met a man, an elephant man
In a sea of a thousand thousands
I’ve never cried, I’ve never cried your name so loudly
His seed was sad
Sad and soft
And I’ve counted all his poisons
When I sigh, I sigh for you, I sigh for me,
And fifty dozens
Here as I sleep, I’ll persuade you
Print my fingers deep in your skull
It’s a wonder that you feel it at all
No doubt, no doubt at all
That your mind is missing
And when I smile, I smile for you
Here as I sleep, I’ll persuade you
Print my fingers deep in your skull
It’s a wonder that I, that I feel it at all
I met a man, an elephant man
In a sea of a thousand thousands
I’ve never cried your name so loudly

9. “Hey Douche Bag, You Got Wings”

DAY NINE

On tour!  The possibilities of collaborations are ENDLESS!  Today is a special posting.  While we were in New Jersey, we played in a little bar upstairs at about one in the morning.  We made it to Jocelyn’s (Pearl and the Beard songstress!) parent’s house at about four in the morning where we were to be staying that night. (Only after a stop at Scotchhills Diner at 3 am.  There are more diners in New Jersey than in the rest of the world combined.)

Jocelyn’s father, Richie, is a multi-instrumentalist, and I knew this was the perfect opportunity to record a collaboration with him.  He agreed to improvise with me.  (Unfortunately, though he has a bunch of projects going, he didn’t give me a link to his stuff even when I requested one, so he’ll remain Richie for the moment.)  I have taken a special picture for you today.  Full of every kind of toy I would only dream of owning, his music room is awesome.  He was very quick with his electric guitar and small multi-colored boxes to find an interesting combination of sounds.  I have mixed it and have put the entire improvisation up for you to hear.  May you see as many things as you’d like while you are listening.

The Richie Arlington Cove of Creation and Fortress of Solitude. (Dad, see? You're not alone!)

I love improvisation like this: it’s very freeing and comfortable for me.  I have received two pieces of advice for improvisation: Just start playing and There is no such thing as a mistake. Any choice you make is good. I learned the former piece of goodwill during my undergrad when I took a year of jazz improvisation.  I learned the latter at a fantastic summer festival a few years ago.  I had the incredible opportunity to not only attend the New Directions Cello Festival, but teach at it as well.  If you are a cellist or even a wanna-be cellist wanting to experiment with all kinds of music outside the classical space: this is the place for you.  It’s one of the more affordable festivals out there, the people are supportive, kind, you don’t have to be any thing  like Yo-Yo Ma to go, and the guest lecturers they invite are always very inspiring.

This was recorded yet again with my trustworthy stereo mic and garageband.  Richie played his electric guitar through his amp, and I was acoustic on cello.  I cut up the original track a little and layered the take on itself, which is why you’re hearing two cellos at one time.  Recorded in about 5 minutes.  It took absolutely no prep.  I asked, Richie said yes, we went upstairs, he lit his boxes up, and I pushed record.  And that was it.  I had Sam McCormally of Ugly Purple Sweater help out on engineering, making sure there was no clipping.

Title: Came from an event which included a car ride with Jocelyn, Richie, a huge bird in the middle of the road and a heavy New Jersey accent.

Boo-ya.

“Hey Douche Bag, You Got Wings”

instrumentation: cello, electric guitar, and RICHIE ARLINGTON

8. The Easy Way

DAY EIGHT

I wanted to address a question I’ve gotten a few times:  Was I inspired by the movie/book Julie and Julia in starting this project?  Nope.  Though I did enjoy the movie, I didn’t even put the two together until someone asked me that a few days ago.  I was inspired by Brian Speaker’s year-long project, The Spiral Notebook, as I mentioned in the project description.  But, man, that Meryl Streep: what an actress!

I laid in bed last night at 2:30 in the morning reminding myself of things I had to do the next day.  One of them being a song, obviously, and for the first time since starting, I didn’t want to do it.  Really? Another one?  And just when I thought I was done for, I fell asleep and woke up, feeling okay and ready to go.

I’m on tour with Ugly Purple Sweater and Pearl and the Beard: really great, patient, and understanding people.  We have played Boston, Jersey City, and Philadelphia.  Baltimore tonight.  I really love it.

I was really worried about today’s song because I’ve felt drained and tired; not quite sure what to do.  Jonathan was playing around with a few chords and a rhythm on his guitar (another result of doing this project is that Jon is much more active on that dusty thing. It’s really nice.), so it was actually he who started playing arbitrary chords that lead to the creation of this song.  Credit where credit’s due, you know?

For The Easy Way, I used an old trick to get out of being stuck for lyrics: I went to a book, flipped to random page, closed my eyes and let my finger land on a random word or sentence.  I used whatever I landed on like you might use jumper cables for a dead battery on a car.  The book used for inspiration for this song?  Don Quixote by Cervantes.  It was very helpful.  The result?  Strangely, and totally unexpectedly, I think I just wrote a really scary song… a bit disturbing, actually…but I’ll let you judge for yourself.  For your mind’s back drop, imagine, if you will, a Sweeney Todd-like grossness and time period… I’ll let you take it from there.  (And yes, Tom Waits was a huge inspiration musically.  Experiments are fun!)

Recording: Accordion. Franz, where are you?! I was very inspired by the technique Franz Nicolay used on Pearl and the Beard’s new CD God bless your weary soul, Amanda Richardson (available on iTunes, too!)  I CANNOT PLAY THE ACCORDION TO SAVE MY LIFE.  But I did it JUST FOR YOU!  Yay! Also, I’m trying to train myself to be done when I really don’t have the time to slave over the recording of a song.  Sometimes, it’s just time to move on.  That’s what I did with this.  Recorded vocals and cello simultaneously and used the second full take.  Accordion was over-dubbed and just took the second take of it and told myself to get over my whiny insecurities.

This song was written fairly quickly.  Maybe an hour and a half for chords and vocals.  Vocals took longest, choosing chords was very easy and natural.  I love it when at least something is in this business!  Again, the most lengthy process was the recording and mixing.

The Easy Way


instrumentation: voice, cello, accordion

I’ve been around and around and around seven lifetimes
Little here, little there,
A shoe shine and shave
You know I’ll get mine
With a cough and wheeze and a laugh, it’s perplexing
Shield your face, glue the gun
Pack your lunch, watch the fun
I’m behind you
Skin whole from head to feet
Some of the most valuable
When will we meet again?
Market place, meet me there, wear that tie, comb your hair,
I’ll be waiting, might be late, pitch a fit,
Make it loud, scream and hit, be convincing
If I come, then I come, if I’m there, then I’m there, don’t you push me
If you’re not then your not, seems a problem we’ve got,
I wouldn’t mind one
Skin whole from head to feet
Some of the most valuable
When will we meet again?

I just realized that I have just written over a full week’s worth of work!  WEIRD!  Hope you’re doing well yourself.  Thank you for listening!  Until tomorrow!

EHP

7. Untitled No. 1

DAY SEVEN

Due to the nature of this installment, I will limit my posting to how it came about being, not how I interpret it.  If you don’t want to know about the innards of the process, just push play.  Really.  I don’t mind.  It’s okay.  Everybody knows the wizard behind the curtain was just an old guy with a pension for yelling when speaking to someone he didn’t know.  And who would want that?

This was a tough night because I’m feeling behind even though I’m not at all behind.  It is 1:02 am, and I have finally finished this piece.  I’m exhausted, on tour, but happy with the outcome of this work.  I can’t even begin to describe to you how I started today’s installment.  It started as a writing exercise: write a song in 5 minutes by timing each verse at one minute increments.  It was fairly successful, but it didn’t go far enough for me.  It was a disorganized exercise anyway.  I started something else instead.  I picked up Johnny, my totally-awesome-ebay-score accordion, and began improvising, trying new progressions and old.  I found a new progression I liked and attempted lyrics, a melody line.  Nothing stuck.  Nothing stood out.  For some stupid reason I thought I had the luxury of being picky.  Why would I ever think that in a 365 day project?!

Johnny! Courtesy of http://www.katrinabaldwin.com

I recorded the accordion, basically improvising a slow chord progression.  Note: I do not know how to play the accordion other than the basic idea that you fill it with air and push the buttons.  I am teaching myself little by little and absolutely love it.  I have almost typed the words “failed attempts” in two different entries, but I have decided I don’t like that term.  I don’t think any experiments are failures, just pathways to preferred successes.  I even experimented with beats and bowed guitar over the accordion at first.  I slowed the tempo down on the accordion track to 40 BPM.  Huzaah! It created an awesome, creepy, organ-like color.  Not sure where to go with it, I picked up my cello and just started listening, experimenting (lowering my C string VERY low) and improvising.  This might sound fruity, but if I have a foundation of something interesting, I can often hear what might need to go next.  For example, in hearing the vibrating nature of the accordion track and G flat drone, I heard trills, so I tried it and there you go.  Basically, everything “fell” into place from there.  Important: there were many happy accidents.  I fear I’m making this sound like it took an hour, when, in reality, I did just the accordion track from 6:00-7:00, then restarted at 10:30.  The final product, at a lengthy time of one minute and fifty-one seconds, was completed at 12:45 am.

It’s been really frustrating installment today.  I had really intended this to take less than an hour total.  It’s a good goal to stick to, especially since I’m on tour and needing to learn how to be quicker and less of a perfectionist.  There’s a time and a place for being slow and detailed.

There was a lot of unnecessary judgment before it was even finished.  EHP: Stop that.  I didn’t come to a personal interpretation until about mid-way through.  Give it a listen.  I’d be interested to hear your interpretations.

*Headphones are recommended for a more robust experience.

Untitled No. 1

Instrumentation: accordion, 7 cello tracks including one track of dropped C string to a G flat (scordatura)

Stay well.  Hope your weekend is a happy time.

EHP

6. Little Sunshine

DAY SIX

I have a best friend.  He is my best friend in the whole world.  Relationships are funny because when one person is having a wonderful day, the other might be feeling two inches tall.  Knowing I had a song due, it was a perfect excuse to sit down with love-of-my-life Jonathan Clark to create a song describing how miserable it feels to be…well… miserable.  I really wanted him to sing on this track with me, and, though it took some convincing, I’m glad he did.  (Those of you who know or who have met Jonathan, I challenge you to guess which lyrics are his…)  It was written fairly quickly.  Maybe an hour on lyrics total?  On one of these installments, I think I will scan my notebook pages as a matter of interest.  Looking at them, I think they would tell you a lot about how I’m working the lyrical side of things.

The melody and accompaniment was very instantaneous.  And sometimes, it just happens that way.

As song writing usually goes for me, my initial intention often turns into something I hadn’t expected.  In this case, we set out to write a song about how sad life can be; this morphed into a song about two people, one feeling happy and one totally lost in his unhappiness.  I think it’s even strayed a little to becoming a really, really sad song about loving someone even after they’ve died (?!).  Use your best judgment, I guess.  What it means to you is what it means.

Yep, that's us.

In any case, there are things I really love about this song and those things are so deeply personal that even if I shared them, they’d just be extraneous info.  (And you’ve read enough already for six days.)  There are a few technical things I’m pretty unhappy with which I might redo at a later time, but the most important thing for me was the act of creating it with someone I love.  I think many of these songs will fall this way as I continue.  Even now, I fear posting this because rereading the lyrics has made me insecure, but I want to post it.  The lyrics aren’t gold medal winning, and I see its weaknesses, but we had a good time coming up with them together: finding words to describe how it feels to want to be anywhere else or be anything other than what you’re feeling now.

Another little something I learned today: writing a song expressing sadness or struggle is very healing.  Even if it doesn’t heal a wound or make it go away; it puts it into a physical form, and you can stand back and say, “Oh, look, here it is…”

Recording: Done live with a totally sweet shiny black violin (with lime green purfling) my dad bought me for $15 on ebay (played with altered tuning).  You might be asking yourself: why in the hell don’t you just use a uke?!  Well, a) I don’t own one (yet) b) the sound of this instrument just can’t be reproduced!  My strumming skillz are a little wanting but working on it. Bells were over-dubbed.

We did a lot of takes, unfortunately.  Recording numerous times can be frustrating and at the end you have to just accept that the dog decided to take a huge, one minute, sloshing drink of water right in the middle of it. (Though that was too much for me, and we did it again.)

My favorite parts?  The way we ended up singing “days for every song” the first time it appears.  It makes me laugh- suddenly it’s a Woody Guthrie song.  And I like that whole line: Still I’ll write you days for every song – there will be so many songs for you that I’ll have to create more days to hold them.

(Quiz time: One my favorite movie lines of all time is whispered at the end of the track…)

Little Sunshine

It’s so hard/Rain does fall/I’m a ghost/Nothin’ matters at all
Butterflies and candy canes/Got nothing on me/Where is my little house/Out by the sea?
Broken down bicycle/No where to go/I’ve lost everything/Buried by snow
I will love you when you’re dead and gone/Still I’ll write you days for every song
See here my little one/We’ve waned and we’ve borne/Deep goes our sorrow down/Down to the core
You are my sunshine/That comes through the pane/And I would give anything/To see you again
I will love you when you’re dead and gone/Still I’ll write you days for every song
It’s so hard/Rain does come/Wanting to see your face/Is like needing the sun

You are great, just the way you are.  Really.  You are.

EHP

5. You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

DAY FIVE

COLLABORATION FRIDAY!  Friend, this is how magic happens.

Anthony Da Costa, Emilyn Brodsky, Marie Darling, EHP, James Frazee

I talked about the uke playin’ and singin’ Emilyn Brodsky in yesterday‘s post.  Well, here she is, and she’s brought others.   We found amazing guitarist and songwriter Anthony Da Costa watching television. (He said the remote control just magically landed on the Real World D.C.  Sure, sure.)  We gathered together our resources of 1. Anthony’s guitar and 2. EHP’s Omnichord and began crafting a song together.  After many entertaining attempts (one of which included a chorus of “Nobody Cares!” which we felt was a bit depressing), the Omnichord became irritable and sleepy.  It almost went home when suddenly, and unexpectedly, at the last second, a song was born!  As we were in the stages of verse configuration, in walks french songstress Marie Darling to join the collaboration as well.  (I’m telling you right now: I have never wanted to be french so bad in my whole life.)   As we commenced recording, we only felt it appropriate that the real french lady (not the fake one) sing the french lyric in our song.  We’re so international.  You will hear the phrase fait accompli sung extremely well by Marie.  The first take we did was the first time we heard her sing this- and you can only imagine how its total wickedness took us a little off guard. Supposedly that specific phrase doesn’t actually mean that much in French, but English speakers (according to Google search) say it means-

1.  Creation of a situation which is irreversible and with which other parties will have to live, even if grudgingly.

Wondering about the Omnichord? Given to me as a gift from Nadia Ali, and I love it!

Prepare yourself, as you will hear another fantastic aspect of this song: recording engineer and producer James Frazee (a man with an amazing ear who will be working on Emilyn Brodsky and Anthony DaCosta’s next albums) has a cameo at the very end.

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the art of collaborating.  Without thinking about it I noticed I just said “art” of collaborating, and I’m totally agreeing with myself.  It’s an art, and collaboration can be really rewarding (like in today’s song) or really awful (example withheld).  In my case, today’s song involved musicians who I totally respect and revere as well as being a bit intimidated by.  It’s this intimidation I feel that can make working with other songwriters difficult for me.  It’s yet another reason why this project is so good for me, too.  Sadly, I think under any other circumstance, I wouldn’t have asked these people to write a song with me.  And how unfortunate!  Our little song would not have ever been born!  There’s always some excuse or fear behind exposing your weaknesses or strengths, even, to other creators though I know we all have them.  For example, Emilyn is a genius wordsmith and Anthony is amazing at fitting chords and lyrics together very quickly.  These are two qualities I have to work at, and I spend a lot of time crafting in the privacy of my own writing hole.  However, being with people who create so well in such a short period of time is infectious and opens up new ways of thinking.  It was so awesome.  Thanks, Aubergine!

Recorded live using my little stereo mic.  (Unless I tell you different, all songs are recorded with this little cheap-o microphone, my M-Audio and Garageband.)  I got to Emilyn’s house at 6 pm, and I was on the train home by 10:30 pm.  That time frame is misleading.  Emilyn was in the shower when I first arrived, so we probably started writing this song at 8:00 after other less intriguing leads on other starts.  We used the second of two takes.  The natural panning that occurs due to how we were all situated around the mic is amazing to me!  Not knowing anything about recording or the technical aspects of it, finding happy accidents like that is cool for me.

You Don’t Know What You’re Doing


you don’t know what you’re doing to me.

the way you’re walking down the street
the way you’re dancing to the beat
the way you make my heart complete
you don’t know what you’re doing to me.

i know just what i’m doing to you.
and you don’t even have a clue.
i could tell you if you wanted me to
i know just what i’m doing.

the way i’m walking down the street
the way i’m dancing to the beat
the way i make your heart complete
fait accompli.

when it started and you were first mine
you said you loved me and i thought you were kind
and now in retrospect i see i was blind.

you don’t know what you’re doing to me.

On tour with Pearl and the Beard and Ugly Purple Sweater in Boston!  Back in New York today, then on the road again Saturday to New Jersey, Baltimore, Philly, and DC.  I’ll let you know how things go recording and writing-wise whilst on the road.  Fingers crossed!

Thank you for checking in and coming here.  Your presence here is super-valued, and whether you read or not, I’m so glad you listen!  May your day today be Friday-licious.

See you tomorrow,

EHP

4. You’ll Be Lonely

DAY FOUR

Alright.  I’m admitting it.  This is hard.  But, I’m pretty sure I’m in denial about the everyday-ness of this whole thing.  I’m thinking this might benefit me.  It’s just one, right?

I had an interesting conversation today with a friend who’s a songwriter (who will also, I hope, appear very soon in a future installment).  I was explaining my apprehensions and concerns about this project to her and her response was, “This is going to change your brain…” and “you need to start picking three chords.”  Oh, she also added, “You need to listen to some Magnetic Fields.”  (If you haven’t guessed already based on the M.F. recommendation, my friend is uke wielding Emilyn Brodsky.)

This is a great topic to address today, actually.  My friend knows I bend over backwards to insert anything but three chords.  In explanation, I’ve had people come over to my house who aren’t musicians and ask to play my cello.  They sit down with it for a few minutes having never touched the thing in their life.  And it’s those people who come up with some wicked riffs on an instrument they don’t even play.  I get stumped all the time on my own instrument with what to do or where to go.  When I get a new instrument that I don’t know how to play, I feel total abandon and write freely without hesitation.  (Which is why I hardly ever write an entire song on my cello any more.  I write it off my instrument then take it back if need be.)  I’m sure there’s a study out there about this phenomenon.  That’s how I feel about music theory.  Now that I’ve seen into the possibilities of the proverbial musical theory microscope, it’s hard for me to turn that knowledge on and off.  I have problems being okay with simplicity.  This little voice says, “A classical musician not utilizing the tools of the trade?! What’s wrong with her?!”  So, today’s song is written with these chords: C major, F major and G major.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Writing this song was a great lesson for me.  Less can totally be more.

This brings up another thought.  I apologize if it seems disjointed later: Right now, I’m sitting at my computer with headphones on with my iTunes running on shuffle.  Right now it is playing: Phenomena by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  This is a rockin’ song.  (I saw them live, and Karen O is totally crazy.  The kind of crazy I want to buy in a bottle at my nearest Bodega and put in everything I digest from now on.)  It’s hot.  She is hot.  When I listen to iTunes on shuffle it will fall on something totally kick-ass, and I’ll think, “Man, why can’t I write like that?”  I’ve come to realize I say that about every artist I love, but if I was going to write like them, I’d be them, not me.  As a side note, maintaining individuality is really important in my work, so there’s an important duality happening there.  Being inspired and motivated by other people without sacrificing your own musical identity.  (Guarantee this topic will come up again.  I have yet to even mention Radiohead- on purpose.  But I will.  Oh.  I will.)

You’ll Be Lonely. After working on another more difficult song most of the day today, I came out with this instead.  It took probably and hour to write in it’s complete form and another hour to completely record.  (I’m working on limiting my working time.  Tour with Pearl and the Beard and Ugly Purple Sweater is starting!)  These lyrics just came out, and I’m not sure where they came from, but they were quick.  (Hear this: I’m super relieved.  It doesn’t always happen this way; I was just really lucky today.  Will address lyrics more very soon.)  Death Cab for Cutie does a freaking amazing song called I will follow you into the dark.  When I finished with the lyrics for You’ll Be Lonely, this song came to my mind for my song’s color, and I was content.  This is a love song of various meanings.  I’m not totally happy with the title, but I choose not to get hung up on it.  Recording-wise, I’ve never done multi-vocal tracks in unison before, so I thought I’d try it.  I wanted it to feel like sisters were singing it together: two people knowing each other really well, but not exactly.  I put the other voices lower in the mix, as I later felt it distracted from the lyrics.  (I also felt like the bells were too loud so I added the other voices also as support.  Bells and main vocal was a one-take, live recording.)

You’ll Be Lonely

I’ll tell you someday you’ll be lonely/But my body will die smiling/I will turn myself out and away from you

The wall could go down and crush our bones to Hell/But I know that you’re mine tonight/I’m so weakened and I’m sure our shoulders will rub raw/But keep pushing and fail not our hearts will out

And when I see you, see you in the morning/I will see you in the morning light/When poor my head has gone from my body/I will see you in the morning light

I’ll tell you someday you’ll be lonely/But my body will die smiling/I will turn myself out just to see you in the morning light

I haven’t thanked you for listening and reading in few days.  Thank you.  Really, thanks a lot.

See you soon,

EHP

3. Gloria

DAY THREE

Typed in "Day Three Cello". Found friend & SLC street cellist Eli. Fate! Photo by Taylor Barnes

The past few days I have been totally spoiled: rehearsals have been moved and other projects have been postponed at the last-minute, so I’ve had some awesome creating time.  In the back of my mind I’ve been fearing the very busy schedule that will commence in only a few days.

I’m having visitors in from out of town, and I’ve been able to incorporate my guests in recording today’s installment!  I started recording it as a multi-track but was frustrated with how it was progressing.  I opted to try recording a live performance for my friends instead.  I found that, despite a missing a lyric or two or goofed vocals, the performance went smoother than the multi-track version I was slaving over, so I’m just going to post and try not to worry about it too much. (Though, I’m totally worrying about it.  Damn you, insecurity!) Posting this version takes out all the other nice bowed cello lines I had planned, but it’s still alright naked.

Pizzicato (plucking of the string) or Arco (bowing of the string)? I wasn’t going to address this yet, but, why not?  Given the choice, I prefer to sing to a plucked cello rather than a bowed cello.  Ben Sollee has garnered himself a reputation as fantastic singer/cellist and has an arsenal of folky bowed vocal songs that work very well.  But, in general, I find I prefer the sonic conjunction of the pizz and voice (or maybe just my voice, I guess).  On the list of songs to do is a self-convincing vocal-bow piece, so there’s something to watch for…

Gloria.  Okay, my original intention was that this project would consist of songs written in 2010.  But, I’m here to confess that the majority of this song was conceived in November.  However, I just solidified a middle section today.  It’s important for me to just push it out because I have a horrible tendency to wait forever on a song, telling myself that it’s still not done.  I have a bunch of stuff like that, and it never gets out.   Well, here it is, regardless of its idiosyncrasies.  There’s actually a ton of information behind the construction of this song, so I’m going to attempt a brief Michel Gondry explanation without nearly the same amount of quirk and charm.  (Okay, it’s not Gondry at all, just a random excuse to throw in his name because I like him and link you to his video):

Some years ago now, I was living in Salt Lake City.  They have a large farmer’s market every Saturday that takes place in a tree-filled park.  I was there one Saturday morning and saw a woman walking a black pug.  (I don’t favor pugs as a type of dog to own, personally, but that knowledge is superfluous…)  Looking back, I remember very clearly the moment when I saw her but don’t recall what she wore or exactly what she looked like (though I do remember she had a clutch covered in multi-colored buttons and a primo hair-cut).  I think for a while this Stranger-Woman became a weird alter-version of myself.  Her presence struck me specifically as being something I needed to remember for a later time, and it’s a bit weird to try to explain the experience to you now.  Has something like this ever happened to you?  Without a specific reason, I decided at some point that she looked like a person who might be named Gloria.  Since I didn’t actually know her real name, I started calling her Gloria, The Girl with No Name.  I also forgot to mention the inspiration of Martin Sexton’s amazing song Glory Bound.  Man, this guy kicks so much ass live.

He Dreams in Actualities. There is a really fantastic documentary about New York City put out by PBS (Netflix!).  In it I learned about actuality film and the first line of this song was born.  I really love this line and have become really attached to it.  I eventually start wondering who the He’s and She’s are in songs I like.  I’ve heard Carly Simon’s You’re so vain is rumored to be about Mic Jagger (nope! Rumor: David Bowie!); didn’t some guy pay millions just to find out if that was true?  Anyhow, there’s a He in this song and, though I didn’t write it about him, my mind has begun to attach it to a kind friend back home who loves music.  He just might dream in actualities.

I won’t go anymore into intention or specific meanings here, but I’ll talk more about lyrics and how awesome and totally evil they can be at a later date.  Again, this song has become very visual for me since its birth, and I hope it is for you, too.  For now, here is a live performance of this song including my response to a the comment “The Cosby Show was taped before a live studio audience” right before I started playing.  (Sigh)

Gloria (Live Version No. 1)

February 4, 2010: I was in need of a better quality recording of this song, so yesterday I sat down and did about 5 takes.  I’m not even sure what number this is.  Though there were better moments in other takes, and I like the original version, I opted for this one because I felt like the overall delivery was better, though it’s still left me wanting.  Regardless, happy listening!

Gloria (Version No. 2: Re-recording)


Pretty face with swollen eyes
He dreams in actualities
He dreams in actualities
Drawn with visions shown in black and white
Eyes weighed down in reverence show
Eyes weighed down in reverence show
He mocks and laughs at solemn passers by
Relieved to find he’s one of them
Relieved to find her at his side
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria
Homeward bound and not a nickel saved
Capsized by the raging sea
Far greater than the sea was she
Mother waiting, blessed corona
Arms softer than the covered sky
Arms softer than the covered sky
To her breast she will fold him in
Safer than when lover stood
Safer than when once he called her
Gloria, Gloria
Tie up my mind, Gloria
In the middle of the night
You were here and so without
And all these things, we will let go
Gloria, Gloria
Tie up my mind
Gloria, you were mine
(Though I love sharing songs and posting lyrics for you to read, please, please, please don’t steal them for your own devices.  This whole writing thing is hard stuff!  If you need anything, please ask! -Thanks)

See you tomorrow…

EHP

2. Beats and Snogs

DAY TWO: Beats and Snogs

What Google Image Gives You For "Beats and Snogs"

Let’s talk about titles.  I don’t plan a title ahead of time unless something comes down from Heaven and says, “Hark, ye.  See ye this song title!”  Most of the time I just type some word salad into the “New File Name” space when I first start.  Sometimes, that word salad just usually ends up becoming the title in one form or another.  So, let’s not get our panties in a bunch about Beats and Snogs, especially since there’s no beats or snogs in it.  It’s what it wanted to be.

Today I will be addressing Garageband.  Why, you might be asking, when there are so many other awesome programs with which to record, am I using Garageband?

a. It’s “cheap”.  MUCH cheaper than paying millions of Emily dollars to buy protools (and the techie laptop you have to get to sustain the kind of memory you need for it) or other some such hardware.  And to those bootleggers of you: I’m just too lazy to hunt for it and a bit overly aware of the guilt that might come afterwords for not getting the legit copy…

b. It’s easy.  I have a Mac. There it is.

c. It doesn’t really matter, right…?

Now, I don’t LOVE Garageband.  It’s super limiting when it comes to the detailed tools necessary for mixing and mastering, but it works for my purposes most of the time.  My frustrations only grow to larger proportions when I work on projects like I posted yesterday (…and today’s, actually).  I had huge sections of poorly recorded and old material that I wanted to use but couldn’t make it cleaner or louder.  Part of this is my limited experience but some of it is the actual program I’m using.  Regardless, I’m doing a song every single day for 365 days.  I have to accept some of the imperfections that come, no?

I am returning to my “musical roots” of sorts with Beats and Snogs.  After moving from Pittsburgh to Utah, I found myself without a job and home all day with a new Mac computer.  I started experimenting with sound, recording, and sampling.  The instrument samples in Garageband are okay, especially if you tear them apart and put them back together micro-beat by micro-beat.  My main reason for using pre-recorded samples is because I don’t have free access to the real instruments or people that can actually play them (i.e. sweet-ass vibraphone).  I created a bunch of songs back then using this same deconstruction process in Garageband.  I stopped doing it in favor of more acoustic songwriting and real-time looping (which I’ll do later on, I’m sure).

This entry is a perfect example of me needing to let go while in the creative process.  I started this at 7:30 am and finished everything but the vocals at around 12:30 pm (It being the very end of the holiday season, I found I had some extra time).  I did another 2 hours on it just coming up with levels that only annoyed me a little bit.  To an engineer this probably doesn’t sound like much time, but I must remind myself that I’m doing this every single day and have a “day job”.  Perfectionism might become a problem, so I’m setting myself time limits to record and call it quits.  To be honest, I didn’t like this one very much at first, feeling like I copped out a little by using more deconstructed samples again and deliberately choosing not to spend much time on finding a great vocal melody line; but the more I listen, the more I like it.

As time goes on, you, my friend, will discover that Emily Hope Price loves movies.  I love seeing movies, and I love watching my favorite movies over and over.  The best part about a good film is the visual and emotional residue it leaves on you after it’s over.  Some of my favorite movies are ones that most people hated, but I love watching them because the cinematic feel of the piece as a whole is so great.  This song is like that for me; in fact, most of what I write tends to lean the way of color and texture…Headphones are recommended.

In this entry you will hear more of the Rick Gribenas recordings (see Day 1) towards the end.  In this example I had asked him if he had anything with words or people talking.  He pulled out some great moments, and I only wish I could find the whole session.

Tomorrow!

EHP

Beats and Snogs


P.S.

Admittance of a deeply ingrained guilty pleasure: Record scratches & pops are some of my favorite sounds in all existence.  I’ll try to keep it at a minimum.

1. Rick Gribenas/365

Preamble

Since announcing this new project, I’ve gotten some mixed responses.  Most have been very supportive, a few have been, “Are you crazy?!  What happens when you go on tour or get sick?!”  To those latter people, I will say to you: I have no idea.  But, I’m heading into this process with an open mind.  Now, I realize that, realistically, I may not be able to post a song every single day (given internet access, recording conditions or a huge monsoon), however, I will make an effort to at least post an update every day.  In any case, I’m incredibly excited with what the project has already done for me: a realization that I can create anything.  With so many days and opportunities to create something new, how can I possibly hesitate or over-edit?  And I suppose that’s what I want to teach myself: there are no limits and sometimes you just have to let things be what they’re going to be.  And those out there listening and reading, thank you for participating in this experience with me.  So, here we go…

DAY ONE.

Rick Gribenas

In 2004, I completed my master’s degree in cello performance at a private college in Pittsburgh named Carnegie Mellon.  During the winter semester of my first year there, I signed up for a class called something like, The Sink Drips Dry.  It was a sound art class taught by  an adjunct professor and artist named Rick Gribenas.  It was mind-altering for me as I stepped into a totally different kind of thinking and observing.  Learning to listen differently and see differently, I started composing and improvising in a whole new way.  At the end of my two years in the program, a master’s recital was required.  The program I had devised with my teacher was entirely from the standard cello repetoire: Bach, Beethoven, and now, sadly, I don’t recall the 20th century piece.   Debussy?  I really wanted to do something different that expressed the things Rick had taught me.  So I approached Rick, being an active and incredible installation and multi-media artist, about collaborating with me on a piece for my recital.  He agreed enthusiastically, and we met one night to brainstorm ideas.  I recorded the entire evening on my mini-disc player.  As I recall, the evening was a difficult one for me because I felt totally out of my league brought on my insecurity and intimidation.  Rick was warm, friendly and totally open to new thoughts, but, still, I remained petrified!  Oh, how I wish I hadn’t been so reserved!  This guy, even at the ripe-old-age of 27, was totally beyond my artistic experience.  I felt I couldn’t think of anything interesting or remarkable to play or express musically.  He sat at a table of knobs, boxes and tape recorders, blipping and bleeping, quiet and focused.   He was kind and patient as I stumbled around and requested different sounds from him, looking for something that might inspire an idea.  As my recital came closer, I unfortunately concluded that the collaboration wasn’t going to happen in time.  I now think this happening was more driven by my insecurity than fact.  In its place, however, I performed the 4 movement Four Stages, a piece about the four stages of Hodgekins Disease which I wrote and dedicated to Rick.

On March 17th 2009, Rick passed away at the age of 31.  As I start this 365 Project, I really wanted to have Rick there from the beginning.

This first piece for the 365 Project includes sections from the recording I made the night Rick and I brainstormed.  A collaboration!  Tomorrow, I’ll get into how I’m putting things together and my general frustrations about the production process, but for now, I’ll just keep it at this.

At the very end you’ll hear a sound byte of Rick’s voice that might be difficult to hear.  I included it anyway because I felt like it described things perfectly.  At one point in the recording, I requested a sonic change from him, and you can hear him reply, “I get you. I guess I was just trying to listen.”

See you tomorrow

EHP

1. Rick Gribenas/365

BRICKS Pittsburgh

Rick’s wife Charissa has started a (soon to be non-profit) organization in Pittsburgh, PA called BRICKS that aims to connect Young Adult cancer patients to people and resources that may be useful to them as they undergo treatment and beyond. They also hope to raise awareness about Young Adult cancers, and impact survival rates through education and activism.  She is a fine, fine lady.  Read her incredibly moving personal accounts and how she is changing lives at http://brickspgh.blogspot.com.

Rick’s website: www.gribenas.com

“We must be lofty and emotional; there must be risk if systems are to be shifted and rearranged.  It is necessary to transmit and receive.” – Rick Gribenas