Black Vessel EP Release (Pearl and the Beard)

Fancy! Photo credit: Shervin Lainez (

What a crazy-busy few weeks.

I decided to shave off some stress and hold off posting for the 365 until a huge wake of gigs has subsided, and the Pearl and the Beard EP release is off and running.  It was a necessary sacrifice, unfortunately, and one I absolutely didn’t foresee going into the 365 a few months ago.  But it’s all culminating into one glorious moment surrounded by friends and loved ones at the EP release show which is TONIGHT!

We have been writing, practicing, arranging and filming over several weeks for tonight’s show at The Living Room in the Lower East Side in Manhattan.  We even got a fancy-schmancy photo shoot by the one and only Shervin Lainez!  You can view his extensive catalogue here: The guy is a genius.

To top it all off: our new EP has been released online and is ready for you to own it, too!  You can listen, purchase and download it here:

It is a special recording for us because it contains 3 solo songs from each of us and one rearrangement of our song Vessel from God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richarson.  For the EP, I chose to do a fancy recording of a 365 song, Manek and Ilona (hear the EP version here). I approached Franz Nicolay about producing and arranging string parts for this song, which he did so beautifully.  I absolutely love what he’s done, and my dear friend Emily Jane Price (who has also done a 365 with me!) drove all the way up from Baltimore in hours and hours of traffic to lend her beautiful violin playing to the song as well.  I’m so blessed to have such wonderful friends to help me create something so meaningful.

Lastly, I am sitting on an awesome surprise that I hope I can reveal to you soon (the suspense is killing me)…and, of course, the 365 will be up and running once again!  (Thank you for your patience!)

Much love to you to today….


The 365 Sleepover Show Teaser!

The 365 Sleepover Show Teaser!

Well, I’ve been absent a bit from the 365 but not gone!  I have a wonderful surprise for you, and it’s been in the works for a  few weeks, and it will be a bit more waiting until you see the whole thing, but, until then, here’s the teaser trailer for the fancy schmancy-caught-on-video-live performances of :





What are Sleepover Shows?

(In their own words)

Sleepover Shows are three song sets of acoustic or stripped down versions performed by bands that we love as they make their way through Boston. Though it started as something we did when bands needed a place to crash on the night of their shows, we now mostly film the sessions before a show and let the bands find their own ways home (though the offer still stands).

Basically, we try and use our spaces as creatively as we can.  We’ve filmed in the back seats of cars, on top of playground equipment, in doorways and alleys, in bathtubs and stairwells.  We try our best to get the bands to take their music outside of the confines of the studio and have some fun.

And that’s the point: to capture some great music that maybe isn’t always as polished, but shows these artists having a good time doing what they love. We’re doing what we love too, and hope you enjoy the videos!


Kelly, Rob and Aviv: you are three of the coolest people I know!

My full set of songs will be coming soon, until then, check out some of my favorites:

210-213. Anthony Da Costa Week!


Someone gave me the idea of posting the dailies as multiples on one day instead of filling the holes as separates (which really annoy me, bee-tee-dubs) just to catch up.  I’m feeling overwhelmed, so how do I cope?  AVOIDANCE!  Well, no more!  Here I am, and I am sojourning on, creating a temporary catch up by showing you what I’ve been doing for the past five days on ONE day.

Today ends Anthony Da Costa week!  I’ve been arranging and rearranging cello solo, trios and quartets for Anthony’s new record.  I’m heading into the studio for a good chunk of the day today to get it all down on digital tape, and then it’s done!

I’ve also had the opportunity to play with the fabulous, and most beautiful, ukelele-ist Sophie Madeleine at Joe’s Pub this week and have yet another show with her on the 24th at The Living Room here in New York City. (Which just so happens to be where Pearl and the Beard’s EP release show is, too – and on the exact same night!  Kismet!)

These are smaller clips from larger arrangements.  These tracks are working drafts and most are improvised.

210. Cello Quartet (Day Three)

Ah… suspensions! Creating tension, one note at at time…

211. Cello Trio (Day Four)

I love what this does within the context of the song.  This is only :15, but I love it.  There is a piano part which is a standard progression, but these cello parts twist it and give it so much color.

212. Bells and Cello (Day Five)

This is actually a second version of day 209 (Day Two of Anthony Da Costa Week).  Day 209 had bells and two cellos and totally different feel.  If I do this one (212), it strips it down to one cello that only comes in one time and then dies.  I’m liking this simpler version much more.

213. Cello Trio (Day Six)

This is a second version of the river from day 208.  I’m thinking a tasteful combination of both might work well.  If you had the opportunity to create a river from a musical instrument, what would you use?  One of the greatest examples of this kind of musical representation is Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev.  I grew up listening to this version on vinyl.  I loved it!

209. Anthony Da Costa Cello Excerpts (Day Two)


Continuation of yesterday’s business… writing, writing, writing… and more writing.  This is a draft excerpt from slow song of Anthony Da Costa’s (see yesterday’s song).  He didn’t request bells, but I tried them, and I’m in love.  The draft here is just a trial for the sound, the arrangement I ended up with you’ll have to hear on Anthony’s album when it’s done! (hee hee)

The great thing about arranging for multiple stringed instruments (or what have you) is that you can take the base stuff away (the guitars, drums, etc.) and really hear a totally new piece.  In this case, I can hear lines that I didn’t want or melodic ideas that sound to similar to a track I just did…. which I find the inherent problem with arranging many things at once… I think you risk everything sounding the same… It’s okay. It’s good to try to overcome this, I think.

Sleep comes to me and I must bid her a welcome hello to her!

Anthony Da Costa Cello Excerpts (Day Two)

208. Anthony Da Costa Cello Excerpts (Trials)


Anthony Da Costa

The next few days (who am I kidding?  It’s weeks right about now) are very (in a “glass-half-full” kind of mentality we can use the word: wonderfully) busy for me.  So, for the next few days, the 365 is going to be a bulletin board for trials I’m running for arrangements.  If you’ve been following the 365, you know Anthony Da Costa.  He has appeared more than once within the project, and now, he is recording a brand new album and has asked me to take part in doing some cello parts on it.

For obvious reasons, I can’t post the songs these trial excerpts are for, but I can tell you they are beautiful songs.  I’ve been working on 5 of them for his CD.  This first excerpt I’m posting for you to hear is a very rough draft of a smaller section of a song about a river.  This, for me, is the fulcrum of the song.  It’s in its beginning stages, but I like the ideas that are happening… can you hear the river starting to be born?  It might be cliché, but I like it!  And when you get Anthony’s album you can hear the final product (if he ends up liking it and using it).  Exciting!

Since arranging I’ve allow to be part of the 365, here is it, as it’s all I’ve been working on… (not to mention some other live performances coming up with Sophie Madeleine, a quartet and a solo show I’ve needed to get parts for… phew)

Hope your evening is absolutely smashing.

Anthony Da Costa Cello Excerpts (Trials)

207. Across the Coals (Intonation Exercise)


In honor of Sunday, I have tried to sing you an out of tune song.  I was with some friends last week, and we started talking about song writing.  The topic was: What makes a good song?  Intonation was discussed among other things, but it got me thinking: in this world of auto-tune, what if we take perfect intonation out of the songwriting equation?  I started with a simple exercise:

Detune the uke strings then detune the vocal. As far as the uke is concerned, it wasn’t a free-for-all detuning, mind you, but just enough that you know there’s something not quite right.  Here is the first version with improvised lyrics/melody and (sort of) in tune vocals but detuned uke.  Then, I did a version with tuned uke and detuned vocals. This was difficult.

Within this discussion about songwriting, we also talked about one of the most beloved songs in American songwriting history: Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  We talked about what makes this song really great and why almost everyone and their mom knows it and can sing it.  The first two notes of Somewhere Over the Rainbow are the interval of an octave.  Intervals can make or break a song, and this one in particular has created one of the most memorable two notes in history: Some….. where…!!!! So, in honor of the octave interval, I used it.

Observations: When the uke was out of tune, I was less tight with melody and vocal style.  I created something wobbly and loose both in style and intonation.  The out of tune vocals were interesting because the goal was to sing decently and still out of tune.  Meaning that I couldn’t make it a joke and sing silly, which was a challenge.  Singing out of tune was so hard, I just tossed trying to sing the lyrics, too.  In the end, it was too much, and I stopped (as you’ll here).  I’d like to try this again with something more solidified in form.

(This topic could actually go one for ages as there are many genres of music that use intonation as expression or as a singular part of its character… Sacred Harp Singing (among quite a few others I could list) is an example of slight imperfections that function successfully within the genre and being a part of the special character that is created by many distinct voices singing together.)


Across the Coals (Intonation Exercise – Uke)

Across the Coals (Intonation Exercise – Vocal)

206. I Don’t Like Your Tone


I Don’t Like Your Tone

Have you ever written an email and the reply you get is: “I don’t like your tone.”?  Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has happened to me much more than once, and I usually, absolutely do not see it coming.   It happened again today.  So, again, unsurprisingly, I used it as fodder as the 365 today.

What is tone?  (Taken from the online dictionary!)

any sound considered with reference to its quality, pitch, strength, source, etc.: shrill tones.

quality or character of sound.

vocal sound; the sound made by vibrating muscular bands in the larynx.

a particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation of the voice as expressive of some meaning, feeling, spirit, etc.: a tone of command.

an accent peculiar to a person, people, locality, etc., or a characteristic mode of sounding words in speech.

stress of voice on a syllable of a word.

This is 8 cello tracks staggered and starting on f#, e, c…etc.  The notes themselves are bent to each other just a little, adjusted to micro tones as they’re played.  Sometimes the sound is made “unlikable” by rougher strokes (changing the weight or speed of the bow on the string) and intonation, and a bit more “likable” by being more kind in general.  I find it very hypnotic, but I didn’t run it for very long.  I wanted you to hear the whole thing.

Pearl and the Beard arrived back in New York yesterday, and I have been arranging ever since. I’ve got a few recording projects outside the 365 that needed attending to, and they’re still not finished.  But not to worry!  I’m posting my brains out for the 365!

Pearl and the Beard is…

…on tour for a few days!

have some songs lined up, but I have to leave my computer at home.  I will be posting as soon as my little paws can get onto some computer keys…

until then…

Boston! Philadelphia! and Maryland!  Yay!


204. We Are Not Each Other (F Major Scale)


In a new place with noisy, noisy streets, I decided to break myself in by just plugging my loop pedal into my computer to avoid any frustrations attempting to quiet my room or dragging my stuff out into the kitchen.  I really don’t like this method strictly because the sound quality of the stringed instrument is so nasally and whiney.  I’m feeling that way: maybe it’s appropriate.

What you are hearing: This is an F major scale played standing up (not my preferred method playing the cello at all as you can hear) into a loop pedal many, many times.  Scales are incredible.  I don’t play them nearly as much as I should.  As far as rhythm goes, you can hear it change from one thing to another by the end of it.  It changes for you (intentionally) like an illusion.  I love stuff like that.

You can either use a loop pedal or abuse a loop pedal (sonically).  They are delicate machines: you can really, really overuse them and they have a potential to bore (or at least bore me…).  I decided to over use it and not get bored.  And you?

Finding myself tired and busy, and have been sick for the past 4 days but feeling better.  All these things can be dealt without much trouble but not while all holding hands within the same person.  Hope you have found a delicious treat for yourself today.  Me?  I will try to track down some delicious something whilst on the road…

We Are Not Each Other

203. The Living Room (Soundscape)


I am here.  In my new apartment.  I find that every location has its own sounds and character.  This place is full of rushing cars, big loud mufflers, buses and taxis that honk for passengers.  Even if the passenger is just a pedestrian, they honk anyway – just in case.  And today?  I can smell, and even feel the exhaust from the cars coming into my window.  They idle down there, and, even from the sixth floor, it can get in.  But only for a minute, and then it is gone, though the sounds remain.

This new environment has its own set of recording problems.  My room faces a busy street in Manhattan.  The only time it gets really quiet is at night, but now I have 2 other roommates, so finding a new pattern of living will be challenging.

What you are hearing: This is a soundscape for a full room, not an empty one as we heard earlier.  The room is full of things, some of it still in boxes, all over the floor, all over the bed.  I had to fit a one bedroom apartment into one single bedroom.  Challenging, yes.  Impossible?  No.  Jonathan has put a lot of work into it, and I am grateful.  This is the first time I have had roommates since 2004 when I lived in Pittsburgh.  It is a whole new set of rule, and one must now be more conscious that one was before… well, if you’re me you do.  I am living for four: an unwashed dish doesn’t just affect me or Jonathan, but two others.  It is a good thing to experience.

I set the mic closer to the fire escape instead of in the middle of the room.  I like that you can hear someone running and even a little in the distance maybe… music?  Is that it?  Like the last one, I pushed record and closed the door to my room.  I walked into the kitchen looking for breakfast.  Lacey heard me and followed.  She thinks she will get something, too.  No.  I look into the fridge, and, finding it disappointing, I grab the peanut butter, open my rice cakes and make myself somethingAnything.  I walk back into the room, ask Lacey to sit as she is now begging me to have some, too.  She loves peanut butter.  And though I am right next to the mic, I am drowned out by the bus outside the window.

The Living Room

202. Bells and Cello in an Empty Room (Improvisation)


My bedroom is now cavernous.  I put a mic in the middle of the room and did some heavy improvisation to play with the sound.  I stacked 2 cello tracks, both being in different places in the room.  I also gave myself a time limit.  I liked trying this even if it’s a bit haphazard.

I like the bells sound I got out of today, and I might use it later for something else.  Instead of lifting off the mallet after the strike, I left it on the bell, stopping the vibration.  There is no effects on these tracks… all virgin!

I am sick as a dog, but hoping to be better by Saturday.  Hie-ho! Hope you are doing splendidly.

Band recommendation of the day: Lost in the Trees.

Lost In The Trees - Ari Picker, Drew Anagnost, Mark Daumen, Leah Gibson, Emma Nadeau and Jenavieve Varga. Photo by D.L. Anderson, April 9, 2010.

Saw them live on Monday at Mercury Lounge here in New York (for the second time and yet again: AMAZING.)  Also, read about what they are doing with orchestra kids in this awesome program: Project Symphony

Bells and Cello in an Empty Room (Improvisation)

201. The Good-bye Room (Soundscape)


The Good-Bye Room

a soundscape

Testing the mic. Lacey was very polite. Not a peep or a sigh or a bark. I think she's a bit to leave, too.

What does a room sound like when a person leaves it?  When one has moved from a room, whether it be temporarily or permanently, what happens to the sound?  I haven’t really thought about it in this exact way before and felt it appropriate to capture this idea.  I’m very often, though not always, a person who thinks about where I’m about to go, not where I have just left.  (Unless it was an anxiety ridden or traumatic event and then I have to analyze the crap out of where I just was).

I am moving.  So, this is a song of my room.  A room in which I have gotten so angry that I threw my headphones on the floor and stomped them into the ground (yes, there’s a song about that) and one in which I have fallen asleep on the floor and/or futon after recording at 3 am.  Yes.  I am sentimental.  I can own up to it.

In this now mostly empty space, I opened all the windows up in my apartment and set the microphone in the middle of the room.  One might argue that this is more of a personal archival moment than an actual song… but let us consult John Cage, and we’ll see what he would say about it, my friends!   This is a composition of life continuing to move even when we’re gone.  It is, for me, at the same time relieving and humbling.

I will be recording the rest of the week at this old location as I have the apartment until the end of the week (I had some dreaded overlap, and you never want that in New York, but, alas, so it is), and then I have to leave for good.

I’m not sure if I will get this opportunity again this… as I have moved out most of my things, only my recording equipment remains…No one in the building is bustling or playing music or slamming or singing as they usually do.  My harpist friend, Bridget Kibbey, lives right above me.  I will miss her practicing music I have come to know very well because she plays it and plays it, and all the vocal exercises I can hear through the walls from my next door neighbor who does musical theater (that’s been entertaining), and the quiet humming of an elevator (when it finally gets going, that is) originating from sometime in the 1920s.

Sentimental: YES.   A bit melancholy: SURE.  But I have spent the morning moving the last few things out and have spent the afternoon in my new room creating a corner just for my shells and ocean pictures on new walls that will be happy to take more holes to hold them.

What is happening in this song: I cut it to start when I shut the door to leave the room.  I walked down the hall, got into the elevator.  I munched on a piece of rice cake and peanut butter.  I wandered downstairs, looked at my name on the mailbox, walked past my super’s door, and rode back up the elevator.  When I entered the room again, I was careful to make noises just as I would as if it were any other day; as if I was just coming in from taking my dog out for a walk.  I walked to the kitchen, asked her to sit, and gave her a treat for doing so.

When I listen I can hear car horns, which is pretty average, but I can also hear the wind through the “forest” of trees on the rock outside my windows.  I can hear the airplane engines overhead ready to land at or leave La Guardia Airport.  (I’m far from it, but you can still hear them.)

Poor photographic evidence of the view from my front room.

200. Machines


MOOOOOOVING!  Stuff is e v e r y w h e r e.

(In the meantime, I have missed a few days…)


I wrote and recorded this at 7:30 this morning (bet my neighbors are so happy that I’m leaving.)  Cello track is the first take reworked from a quick improvisation.  Bells took quite a bit longer, trying not to over play them and trying to find out the best compromise.  Then lyrics!  (Taking a page from Yeah Yeah Yeahs a little in the repeated “chorus”.  Karen O!)


We fight, we fight again
Machines have holes within
Repair the outerskin
Like me, like me, like me
All white from black again
All white and new again
All white and white and new again
All white and white and new again
We fight
We fight
We fight machines, machines, machines

199. Part III


Thanks to Anna Vogelzang for her polaroid shot of the Maine coast!

Holy crap. Day 200 is almost upon us. The INTENSITY.

The idea behind this one is the following:

This is based on the idea of being constantly one step behind.  And even though thoughts might resemble each other, they reside on a different plane or live in a different time: just one moment too late.

I wanted a more dry sound for this Part III but wanted each voice to have more energy which is what took me so long to finish this even though it’s very short.  I experimented with different bow strokes and lengths, as well as different speeds of vibrato for the main motif.

Continuing to move today. It is necessary melancholy for me that won’t last very long… I will go eat some gluten-free pancakes now, I think.  Yes. That is what I will do.  Happy Friday to you!

Part III

198. Part II


Lacey dislikes moving, too.

It dawned on me that this next week will be the last songs recorded in my first “real” New York apartment. (I moved into a sublet the size of a closet for a month when I first moved here years ago.)  It’s sad for me as I’ve learned and experienced a lot in this place, and now I move on to a temporary living situation until the next “real” New York apartment.

Today’s song is simple, improvised and short.  I have spent the last several days taking smaller moving trips instead of one big one to lessen the burden later next week.  I am eager to get this done.  It’s important for me to do the hard things first and very quickly, that way I can kind of forget I did them at all.

Part II