169. The Scent of a Woman

DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE

It occurred to me today that I am almost half through.  Sometime around the 182nd day I will be at the mid-point.

I did a violin pizzicato piece a few days ago.  It got me thinking about the violin and how I under use the one I have.  It is probably the cheapest (quite literally) violin one could own – my dad got it as a gift for me and says it cost him $15.  It is shiny black with green purfling. It is weird and lovely.

Writing: These few seconds took me a few hours.  In a huge way, it is improvisational… or at least heavily based from improvisation.  I started played the opening line, playing around with motivs and direction, and, because I play the cello, I had to learn how to play this violin, which was made more difficult by its lack of set up (it being so inexpensively made).  The second problem came when I had no idea what I was going to do past the opening or where it was going to go.  But things came little by little as I went.  It was just taking longer than I have available to me today.  Funny enough, listening to this as a “sample” section, at :45, I can hear it going on and on to a totally different place and then ending where it actually ends up anyway.

Reference: English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.  He has been one of my favorite composers since I started playing the cello over twenty years ago.  If you have yet to experience his music, I would recommend The Lark Ascending (linking you to Hilary Hahn performance of the piece.  Not my favorite of all time, but still very beautiful), Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and any of his choral works.  Unbelievable.  He was a poetic composer, and I highly recommend him.  (I might politely suggest you listen to the posting first and then link to Vaughan Williams: he put this posting to shame in nearly every way…)

Being the kind of cello player I am by nature, this automatically makes me a very heavy-handed violin player, as you can hear.  But I hope you can hear the intention past the crunch.

Pearl and the Beard is playing the Knitting Factory tonight in Brooklyn.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please come by!  It would be good to see you… also: Pearl and the Beard is going on tour in July to the mid-west.  Are we coming your way?  Dates are here: www.pearlandthebeard.com

The Scent of a Woman

168. September 1913 (W.B. Yeats)

DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-EIGHT

William Butler Yeats

I have to RUN out the door, but I will paraphrase the song today:

I have been reading as much writing as possible so I might improve my own brain.  This is a poem by W.B. Yeats. I find his work so lyrical.  It’s really beautiful.

This is a study.  The bowed (arco) cello parts are improvised.  The vocals and pizz cello part were recorded simultaneously.  This is the second take I did of this.  I did a dry improvised run on this poem and took ideas I got from that to the second take.  I had my own agenda as far as  melody and other accompanying parts go.  I tried to stray away from tempting habits.  (There are two or so lines of this poem that just list names which I didn’t take the time to prepare, so that part is actually kind of humorous to me: just singing a list of names and trying to get them all in!)

September 1913


What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry, ‘Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son’:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.

167. Sure, We Got Beaches or You’re Such a Beach

DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN

Jocelyn Mackenzie constructed this starfish house for the tiny star fish we saw in the tiny tide pools on the beach. I’d live there for sure.

Look at those beaches!

BEACHES! On beaches there are shells that have been picked up by birds and dropped on the ground to get the food out.  These shells came from near Biddeford, ME the last time I was there with Pearl and the Beard to play a show at Hog Farm.  We spend the next day at the beach, and it was wonderful.  I have put them in a glass vase where a few of them have broken into little pieces.  Here you can be witness to their debut in the 365.

I have an arsenal of favorite sounds.  Just a few of them are:

Someone else’s keys dangling from the ignition
Walking on Lava Rock
Seashells clinking together
Record scratches
Someone else’s really old windshield wipers on their really old car
Old people’s voices (really old people)
Thunder from far away
Hard heeled shoes on all different textures of pavement
Beans being sorted on our kitchen table by my Brazilian roommate in Pittsburgh
Long nails on a keyboard
Fountain pens scratching on paper

Sure, We Got Beaches (Or You’re Such a Beach)

And you?  Since I had a birthday, I thought I might include just 2 of my favorite sounds into a piece for you to hear.  It hypnotizes me, but it certainly doesn’t have to do the same for you.  What sounds do?

166. Everyday John (John Houx)

DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY SIX

Today is my birthday. It is also Kathleen Turner, Paula Abdul, and Lou Gehrig’s birthday.

Johnny Houx

This is John Houx.  He is a sick songwriter.  Sick.  (This is my most favorite of his songs.) I first saw him in 2008 when I first started playing out in New York.  He performed with his guitar set high upon his chest and no shoes.  He may still perform like this.   He has been gone for seven months on a long tour across the united states and has just returned with long hair, no sleeves and one pair of pants.  John Houx, for me, has been a quiet symbol of my time here in New York: I’ve probably known about John longer than any other musician I’ve met in New York.  This is probably why I was super nervous to write with him – he’s a kind of symbol of great songwriting and experience for me –  and, as things go, my brain froze.  Unfortunate.  But it was a great afternoon with someone I really like and respect, so I won out in the end.  I also told him that this song we would write would be my birthday song.

It was my inclination, as I had some trouble starting, to write a song about John Houx himself.  I asked him what the first thing he did when he woke up was, and he replied, “I tell myself to write down the dream I just had before I forget it, but I always have to pee and then I end up forgetting it anyway.”  We also discussed the fact that he only has one pair of pants (one pair of “social” pants… the kind of pants you don’t paint in.)

And, as a side, John Houx has committed to include a stained glass, statue or mosaic of a mermaid (tail can be any color and no shells: just boobs) in the house he is going to build for himself.  Can’t wait to visit you.

Well, here it is… a song about John Houx, his pants and… what else? Azerbaijan.

This is the third take. Done!

Everyday John


Nature calls
Waterfalls
Lost so many dreams
Down those swift streams
Everyday John
Which side’s he on?
The waking yawn?
Or fake beyond?
Oh, John
Put your pants on
Go 23
Greens are all your ever gonna see
Hey, John, arise!
You’re 40 days unclean
Hey, John
Where have your pants gone?
At a loss for words
Surrounded by so many screaming girls
But you’re the one for me
Just you, and Houx and a million cups of tea
Oh, John
Where have you pants gone?
Oh John
Azerbaijan

165. The Dust Shall Bow (Jonathan Clark)

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE

This is,  95% of it, a song by Jonathan Clark. I did very little for the actual writing process other than help a little with the words, help arrange, add back ground vocals, mix and edit.  (That suddenly seems like a lot, but Jon really gets the credit for the meat of this song, though editing was another matter entirely.)  Jonathan was hesitant to take on so much of the work, but I forced him to sing it by himself and play the guitar (which was a last-ditch effort for a slide guitar sound made with a porcelain cup.)  This is basically his first run through, and I had to do a lot of cutting, copying and pasting and sound work to make this take on Jonathan’s vision for the song.

Jonathan has asked to type a little about this song.

Here he is:

I am a music lover and listener.  I am constantly soaking in music and occasionally something seeps out.  Sometimes I want to be lifted up on a finely woven mountain of sound by a good Sufjan Stevens song.   Lately I have been fixated by sparse, simple tunes rolling in the dirt such as those by the White Stripes and the Black Keys.  Listening to those artists eventually led me the artists that inspired those bands, especially Son House.  When you listen to Son House it’s like drinking a big glass of his unfiltered soul complete with sweet, bitter, kindness, suffering, all poured into a dirty glass for your consumption.

I started tossing around this tune a few weeks ago and today Emily helped me bring it to life.  All I can say about the process is that when I walked away after finishing recording I was frustrated that I could not present it the way I really wanted to.  I left for about 20 minutes, feeling really disappointed about the outcome.  When I came back and heard the song I was presented with a little EHP crafted miracle.  She had edited and molded the mess into a coherent song.  She was a little disappointed with quality of the sound, but for me it is exactly what I was looking for – rolling in the dirt.

The Dust Shall Bow


You open up your eyes and you realize
The woman that you love has materialized
Lift up your face in a new place
Don’t know for sure but you’re fallen from grace.
In psalms I read, the Lord has fed
Those who serve him, their souls ain’t dead.
But I don’t mind cause the girl is mine
She lifts me to heaven cause she’s do divine
I know  there’s nothin’ really stoppin’ it
You sneak up from behind and you get right on top of it.

164. First, There Was The Word

DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR

This is also named Ketchup.  Because that is what I am playing.  Soon to be Ontime.

Violin and voice.  Haven’t even touched this violin in months and months and got it out today.  I’m happy with how this exercise turned out because, for being generally an improvisation, it has some timbres I’m appreciating.

Today is Thursday.  I got my sewing machine out to up-cycle a vintage dress I have… it looks more like Frankenstein’s monster now, but I’m going to wear it anyway.  It is a badge of shoddy seamstressing that I will wear proudly.  And you?

First, There Was The Word


163. Bells for the Nighttime (Study in Major and Minor Thirds)

DAY ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-THREE

Photo courtesy of Richard M. Dishman

If you don’t know anything about music theory, it’s okay… major and minor thirds are those notes that sound really harmonious and complimentary to one another when played together: one of the most used harmonies out there, I say.  The most basic example would be looking at a piano and playing any two white keys together with only one other white key in between (although you can play thirds with the black keys, too!): you’re sure to hit either a major third or a minor third.  Major and minor just mean the quality of the notes together.  You can look at major as being “happy” and minor being “sad” sounding.

Bells!  I haven’t played those in a long time and thought I’d whip them out…

Bells for the Nighttime