Sunday, January 31, 2010

1-31-09 Butterflies Can't Fall Very Far

The title of this song came first, and it was generated kunjabunja-style with my wife. For those of you who aren't familiar with Kunjabunja, it's a method of song generation pioneered by my friend and bandmate David, along with his friend Sadiq. It emphasizes quantity over quality - the writing process is meant to be quick and definitive, without going back to refine or judge the thing just made. A big part of what shapes the song is the title. One of the preferred methods for making up a title is to have each person in the room contribute a word to the title, which is how Sarah and I generated this title.

Kunjabunja was definitely one of the main catalysts for me to write a song every day in 2009.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

1-30-09 Just Breathe

Some good advice to myself. Hippy hand percussion courtesy of Garage Band. Link!

Friday, January 29, 2010

1-29-09 Guitar Instrumental

Usually, with instrumentals, I'll at least try to imagine an interesting title. Not so with this one. Anyone got any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1-28-09 Loudness Wars

The title came first on this one. It refers to the growing trend of albums being mastered louder and louder and compressed more and more so that quiet parts are louder, and loud parts are quieter, destroying the dynamic range of the overall recording. Read more about it here.

This song doesn't really do much to further the argument for or against loudness, unfortunately. Guitar samples and organ from Garageband.

1-27-09 Recipe For Disaster

This is a title that was bandied about as a good song to be written for the Half Brothers. I think Rick may have even taken a stab at it. In any case, there's some clever relationship/cooking analogies that are fun. If you like fun. (Does anyone remember fun?) Link!

It actually brings to mind a picture that Rick took while we were brainstorming the cover photo for the Half Brothers album.

I love the fact that the knife is in the photo. As if the maker of the sandwich is contemplating cutting the sandwich in half to make it easier to eat. Now that's what I call a RECIPE FOR oh forget it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1-26-09 Maggie and Milly and Molly and May

alright, I cheated a little bit on this one. The lyrics in this song are an e.e. cummings poem. I could write songs to cummings' poems all day. Whilst looking for an appropriate image for this, I found out (to my chagrin) that I'm actually not the first person to set this poem to music.

Here's the full text of the poem:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Monday, January 25, 2010

1-25-09 Let's Get To The Heart Of It

Some ethereal garagebandy nonsense. I like the lyrics, though.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1-24-09 Sitting On The Edge Of The Quay

Did I mention that I hate writing lyrics? Okay, I don't hate it, but it's something that doesn't come to me as naturally as I'd like. Many times, it's helpful to have constraints to narrow down what to say. In the case of this song, the constraint was that the last word in each line had to come from the game of Scrabble that Sarah and I had played that night. 'Quay' and 'zombie' were the most interesting words we could muster. As much as I love zombies, I don't think I rose to meet the challenge in the most engaging way. It was just one of those days.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

1-23-09 Your Shoes

Of course, no song a day collection would be complete without a song about shoe fetish. I think the original inspiration for this may have come from recalling Steve Martin's fantastic Cruel Shoes

Sarah's Casio keyboard and its AutoChord setting provide the lovely 8-bit samba stylings here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

1-22-09 No Place For A Chicken Like You

Another song from the Epic of Gallus Domesticus that didn't make it in. This one is from the perspective of an elder telling our hero just what's on the other side of the fence. I must have had a cold; my voice sounds a little ragged (appropriate for the character singing the song, though). A little bit of noir-grass for you.

1-21-09 Walking Through The Fog

My sincere apologies, o tens of readers, for failing to post yesterday. There was a song made a year ago yesterday, and here it is. Lots of weather related songs happened this time last year because of Snowpocalypse 2009.

Stay tuned for today's song later on this afternoon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1-20-09 Obama

Hey, anyone remember that time a year ago today when we were all filled with hope and possibility? Giddy about change? Seems like an eternity ago, but here's a 44-second reminder of that giddiness.

The main riff comes from one of Sarah's ringtones. Special appearance by our other, quieter cat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1-19-09 Wake Me From This Dream

An angry song. I can't remember what I was so angry about anymore, but I do remember enjoying thrashing on the electric guitar for this. Drum loops by Garage Band.

Monday, January 18, 2010

1-18-09 All Too Familiar Town

Here's a sad l'il country tune. If memory serves, I think the words were written whilst walking around Green Lake.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

1-17-09 Harvey, Dangerously

This is an unfinished, slightly half-assed attempt to make a bouncy piano-pop song. My friend Sean and his band Harvey Danger were the original inspiration (as the title awkwardly references). They are no longer together, but that's no excuse not to listen to their album, Little By Little (one of the finest records of the last sorry decade).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

1-16-09 Pencil Parade-Dragon Display

A bit of Tropicalia-tinged nonsense featuring some off-the-top-of-my-head alliteration. "Watch out for the stupid things you say", indeed.

I do have to say that the fact that there is a photo online of an actual pencil parade fills me with boundless joy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

1-15-09 Prog Ress? Prog Less!

I like prog rock. I ain't gonna lie. Although there's very little 'rock' in this piece, there's a healthy slice of 'prog'. It was basically an exercise to see if I could write something with interlocking guitar lines that are in different time signatures which eventually line up. I always think of this King Crimson song when I listen to it:

Wow, Adrian Belew's pink suit in that video is fantastic.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

1-14-09 Invisible And Not Invisible

A cappella melancholia!

1-13-09 Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road

Last year, The Half Brothers presented a new work called "The Epic of Gallus Domesticus". Its central character was a rooster on a hero's journey. The script was written by Scot Auguston and featured Sgt. Rigsby's Amazing Silhouettes. Around this time last year, we were still trying to generate the songs for the piece. This is one that didn't make it in the show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1-12-09 Good Night Sleep Tight

A nice little lullabye. Clay drum courtesy of Garage Band. The mbira was gift from a family when I worked at Gymboree. Stevie is audible in the mbira loop.

Monday, January 11, 2010

1-11-09 Catching Up With You

Hey, it's a song with a lot of gerunds! The three operative gerunds in this song are: catching, hanging, and waiting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

1-10-09 Root Baby

The night of this song, Sarah and I watched a movie called Pan's Labyrinth. We were underwhelmed by the movie as a whole - it had the potential to be a great fantasy movie, but spent too much time trying to be a gripping character study of an insane warlord. In any case, we both liked the mandrake root baby that Ofelia nurtures under her bed to bring her mother back to health. So I wrote a song about it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

1-9-09 Floatin' Down The River

Hmmm, not much to say about this one. It brings up memories of (a) kayaking with Sarah in Hawaii, and (b) floating in inflatable rowboats in a small lake on San Juan Island with E-Ray and Tracy whilst drinking Budweiser and playing ukuleles.

Friday, January 8, 2010

1-8-09 Keep To The Sidewalk

Ah, the banjo.

The banjo that I have is part of a collection of instruments in my care that belong to other people. Over the years, people have come to me with various instruments that they can't use because it hurts their hands to much to play anymore, they're spending more time working on their photography careers and don't have the time, or because they're going away to circus college (all true, by the way). This banjo is not a very good one, which works out fine, as I am not a very good banjo player (although I got a lot of use from it on a play that I was part of at the Intiman Theatre last fall).

This song was written at the same time that there was massive flooding in Centralia, so that's where the flash flood lyric comes from. link!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1-7-09 I'm Tired

This song was a collaborative effort, actually. We have a black cat named Stevie who has more energy than a cat really should. (When this was recorded, he was still a kitten, but little has really changed since then.) This was recorded late at night in the kitchen of our house in Lake City. Midway through you'll hear him rubbing up against the microphone on my laptop, and then hop onto the counter for some tasteful percussion on the venetian blinds.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1-6-09 Chamomile

Another song where the title came first, supplied by my wife. I can safely say that I would never have chosen that word as a song title on my own. Chamomile is gross. At least the song is pretty. I had fun with the shifting time signatures.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

1-5-09 Boombox Man

Sometimes coming up with a title is everything.

Other than my computer and a microphone, the only piece of equipment that I currently own is a Line 6 audio interface. In non-technical terms, it takes an analog signal - a microphone or an instrument - and converts it to digital. It also has some bundled software with a lot of preset effects which are fun to play with. For example, you can plug a guitar into it and get screeching feedback sounds, without all that pesky pissing-off-the-neighbors business. Of course, the actual amplified screeching guitar is more fun and sounds more natural, but you take what you can get.

On this particular day, I was having no particular inspiration lyrically (big surprise), so I started experimenting with the presets. The vocal sound that grabbed me was called 'Distorted Boombox Vox'. Voila! A song germinates. I imagined John Cusack holding his boombox over his head at the climax of "Say Anything", but playing Tom Tom Club instead of Peter Gabriel...

Drumbeat courtesy of Garage Band. All other sounds created by me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

1-4-09 Don't

Lots of good advice in such a tiny package! link!

1-3-09 New Day

An obligatory acoustic instrumental. I decided to keep the instrumental songs to a minimum. Lyrics are particularly challenging for me to write, so I made myself write them whenever I could. Didn't work with this one.

1-2-09 Mother's Keeper

A little more polished than yesterday's effort. I like the creepiness of it. I think I'd been listening to a lot of The Decemberists that day. You can hear that I hadn't yet made a pop filter for the microphone in my oh-so-swanky studio. You can also hear that my melodica is tuned to itself and nothing else. link!

1-1-09 Hungover Again

An apt title for New Year's Day, of course. A slow start to the process, and I almost didn't do it. On New Year's Eve "Awesome" had played at our favorite tiny theatre-in-a-club, the Jewelbox Theatre. Much revelry followed, including an obligatory post-show party at Rob's that wore on into the evening. It showed the next day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

well. hello.

For 2009, I made a New Year's Resolution: to write and record a song every day for a year. 365 days later, and I have 365 pieces of... music. I wouldn't necessarily call them all 'songs'. Some of them are more or less fleshed out, perhaps even 'complete'. Some are pieces of ideas that were never finished. Some of them turned out pretty good. A lot of them were crap. Most have lyrics. All of them were recorded on my iBook in Garage Band.

The point was not to try to make something perfect every day, but just to make something every day. I considered making a blog like this last year, but I felt like I was too close to the process to want to share it every day. A huge part of the challenge was to let go of instantly judging whether an idea was 'good' or not, and blogging it every day would not have helped that process for me. However, a lot of pieces did see the light of day in various projects that I undertook in the course of the year. It seems like a year later is enough time to just let it all hang out to dry.

What's nice for me is that every piece provides a little snapshot of every day in a year of my life. Some days are flowing with creativity, others are stifled; some are marked by the minutiae of my day, others by a desire to escape from it.

So, here goes. Thanks for listening.