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The Widowhood of Bunny Album Cover 2This week, I’m releasing my 14th album and my second symphonic/classical work. It’s called The Widowhood of Bunny, and it’s a sequel of sorts to my 2016 album Gravitas: A Life. Like the other album, it has a lot of jaunty classical piano and string arrangements (they remind my wife of movie soundtracks) but also some jazz elements inspired at least in part by 20th century masters such as George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. Like Gravitas, it’s an instrumental suite that follows the exploits of widow Bunny now that hubby Gravitas has dropped dead.

Like it’s predecessor, The Widowhood of Bunny was made on an iPhone 6S. Gravitas came together because I was stress testing my phone and wanted to see how rich a sound I could get out of it — the project resulted, to my amusement, in my first 50-minute symphony. Bunny was a fluke, too, in a way. Earlier this year, I shoved a string section into one of my rock songs as a funny interruption (a satirical trick I learned from Frank Zappa that amuses me no end) and found the string part growing to almost five minutes long. I realized I would have to stop and either throw the incongruous thing in the trash as another dunce’s experiment, or save it by writing a new extended work. Then I wondered if my imagination could handle another long-form piece, and of course, idiot male posturing pride set in (“Why the hell not?”) and a determination to grow within this genre. My audience, after all, is small enough to not really give a shit.

Indeed, lately, I’ve been thinking … “Hmmmm … Son of Gravitas?”

I understand that the sing-songy, jaunty arrangements in these two albums could really turn off people who prefer my pop and rock tunes, annoy series classical fans by thinking I’ve wandered into muzak or invite the deserved scorn heaped upon pretentious assholes everywhere. But I ask for patience: Bunny and stuff like it feeds my rock music (and vice versa), and allows me to search and discover. I don’t know many good artists who can repeat themselves, even if they want to. I certainly can’t. It usually doesn’t work out for me to repeat concepts and stay within song genres, even if I’ve found a comfort zone within them. The minute I found my sweet spot in my singing voice, for example, I realized that relying on it made my songwriting weak.

But if you’re not a fan of this stuff, there’s good news: I’ve made four other albums this year, and through the luminous mysteries of music distributors, one of them is only days away. That one’s a neo-folk album of nothing but acoustic guitar songs, and I’ll be sharing that too, hopefully by the end of this week. The release of these two albums hopefully demonstrates to you my proud musical, schizophrenia and dedication to keeping it fresh.

I composed and produced the album during the summer of 2017. The work was created in Apple GarageBand for iPhone. Apple’s string arrangements are largely programed through manipulation and furious button pushing. However, Bunny‘s piano, electric piano, bassoon, flute, clarinet, oboe, glockenspiel, and bass violin parts were all performed by me on the program’s piano keyboard.

I’m including here the proper opening track off The Widowhood of Bunny (it follows a prologue). The album is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other sites where music is (still) sold.

 

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Imagine …

Imagine the evil of a man who demands blind loyalty from his followers; who preys upon their low self-esteem and insecurity, promising them pride they haven’t earned by offering them membership in a special tribal identity; who robs them of their individuality by offering them love and esteem in exchange for total deference; who deflects any questions about his competence or leadership by inventing bugaboos, weaving conspiracies and projecting his worst behavior onto his enemies and thus normalizing his behavior by claiming that it’s universal. Imagine his thorough success at this strategy is such that his followers eventually accept non-facts as fact, create their own argot that further alienates them from non-group members, turn violently on those who question the group dogma and otherwise allow their higher-brain qualities of doubt and inquiry to become neutered and destroyed.

And in other news, Charles Manson died.

Gun rights advocates say there are 2.5 million defensive gun uses a year. That’s 6,849 times a day. That’s how they justify ignoring the mass shootings of children.

To give their numbers context, let’s look at crime statistics:

In 2016, the FBI recorded 95,730 rapes. That’s 262 rapes a day.

The bureau recorded 17,250 murders. That’s about 47 murders per day.

There were 332,198 robberies nationwide in 2016. That’s 910 per day.

There were 803,007 aggravated assaults in 2016. That’s 2,200 per day.

If you add all these up, gun owners claimed to have stopped almost twice as many of the biggest crimes the FBI recorded actually happening in 2016. And if you consider that only about a third of American households have guns, you must come to the conclusion that the overwhelming amount of U.S. crime is actually being perpetuated against gun owners–in such vast amounts that if I were them, I would be afraid to leave the house.

There’s an easy way to avoid that paradox: They can admit their numbers are fraudulent. They are, in fact, 20 years old and based on a phone survey of Floridians whose stories were not externally validated by the study’s author. The reason gun owners tout these figures is a miscible concoction of fear, folk wisdom, peer approval and inherent trust in family members. In other words, the same qualities Bernie Madoff preyed upon.

If this were an insurance scam, it would work the same way: The unethical salesperson exaggerates the risk of failure, sells you a product that is actually riskier, then tells you to share that risk with others by telling them to buy it too. The problem with gun rights advocates, even if their hearts are in the right place, is that they have asked non-gun-owning two thirds of Americans to share risk that the unethical salesperson has laden them with (the heightened risk of getting shot), and help them participate in a demonstrable fraud.

Incidentally, there is a real number of defensive gun uses, and there’s little reason to believe it’s much higher than toddlers shooting themselves. It is easily canceled out by murders many times over. There are common sense physics reasons that guns are very limited as defensive weapons, but if you can’t understand that, I doubt you read this far. And if that’s the case, you’ll never know that the monster at the end of this story was you.

You can get where you’re going by a couple of crowns

I watch them walk by, the sum of young life

Aching and honey haired, their crack voices loud

As cheap trumpets, brazen bells, oiled valves

Not knowing my medallions and orbs trod upon by Spiders

 

I was imperviously covered,

And imperiously stained

Cannot release my scepter

Or catch the humble rain

That dashed the trees in this fell lot

And called me a dispatcher and marplot

 

But I am the brother of a king and a king

The last Plantagenet, crowned by

Sharp Partisans

I conquered Henry. I lay with Anne.

 

This is my lot

To bear kingly burden.

My reputation and me, tarred.

Death, I pronounce it stupid

No sum, like the boy princes’ hair,

Show a life well lived

Though my dominions are rich with purposeful cars

I am forever bent

to de-clutch

My kingdom for a wooden horse

I am old, and I have been here a long time;

My kind seek no validation.

Laugh at my obliqueness as you like.

I still win

Not knowing, as blade touched skull,

That I was ever beaten

 

Park here, I will be a token

Aspire if you can aspire still

Say goodbye to your crown and feed

My metier

Bring your wheels to bear at the path that I have made

And learn to yield

The way I had to yield

–*Woman who was kidnapped at age 5 now has her own hostage.

–*You’ll never believe where we bought these chives.

–*You’ll never believe who just recently died. And this attached photo of George Clooney means, really, you shouldn’t believe people like us when we tell you who recently died.

–*You’ll never believe it, but this carrot carved up to look like Donald Trump was once just a regular carrot.

–*These five women used to be so much older then, but they are younger than that now.

–*You should take this man’s investment advice because there is no way he was convicted of wire fraud in 2003.

–*You won’t believe who committed wire fraud, and this attached photo of George Clooney proves that you shouldn’t believe us when we tell you who committed wire fraud.

–*The shocking story behind the banality of evil.

–*Come here. There’s candy in my car.

–*Why you don’t see Shelley Winters in movies anymore.

–*Five women who surprisingly decided to be sexually harassed.

–*Being chased around the room by a naked screaming baby is pretty funny unless the baby is 6 feet tall and runs Miramax.

–*This prisoner bet he could eat 50 eggs.

–*This prisoner told his cellmate, “Nobody can eat 50 eggs!”

–*This prisoner added he could eat 50 eggs in an hour.

–*Twelve cadavers who surprisingly bared all.

–*Idiot Breitbart reader was also an idiot child.

–*Which of these former ‘Survivor’ contestants have gone feral?

–*Ten reasons Squeaky Fromme is not as lovable as she seems.

–*The 10 people at this party whom your use of irony was lost upon.

–*People who got mad and clicked this when we said the Eagles weren’t any good.

–*People who got mad and clicked this when we said Joanna Newsom wasn’t any good.

–*There’s a monster at the end of this book!

–*12 Hollywood sex scandals that ended in everyone dying and being forgotten after 80 years.

Driver, Take This Cab to the Depths of the SoulMy 13th album, “Driver Take This Cab to the Depths of the Soul,” by my musical act “Salon de la Guerre,” is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby and other sites were music is sold or streamed.

I began this year, like all decent people, in a funk over the direction our country had taken, the amorality of Donald Trump’s election and the violent rhetoric that had become the mainstay of Republicanism only some 30 years after Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism. I wondered how a person who lied so easily to stupid people, in a populist idiom familiar to failed states, had somehow managed to become the leader of a country whose institutions are often reliably immune to such behavior. I wondered how to tell my child that a person who had spent his campaign bullying, blustering, threatening vulnerable minorities and flirting with treason had somehow succeeded with those very traits to wangle his way into the Oval Office. I wondered if telling my child to be a good human being was still possible, desirable in the world Republicans had bequeathed us.

The only way I could think to deal with our new anomie was to become a better guitar player.

After all, telling people the truth and demonstrating to them exactly how they are wrong–these are somehow no longer satisfactory ways to make change. As I’ve stated elsewhere, any person appealing to a Trump voter is effectively arguing with the person’s Dad. A Bad Dad who has kept this person a child-hostage of abstractions and made him repeat them well into the adulthood, often long after said Bad Dad is in the grave. Hiding Americans’ sins and Dad’s racism are two such abstractions and the pain of disloyalty for the hapless Trump supporter is as close to him as his skin.

Since the violence of the Antifa school doesn’t work to advance decency, and since the current Republican-controlled Congress will ensure that Trump, who is already manifestly guilty of obstruction of justice, flies above the law as easily as whistling, I have no hope for his quick removal, deserved as it is.

I wrought my despair into art. Some of the first few things I wrote for this album were so bad and so angry and shrill that I left them off. But then I found a groove with a song called “Cain and Abel,” a morality tale about the rationalizing of murder and the cost of getting away with it–if there is any. A couple of nasty anti-Trump lyrics remained in other songs, but I noticed as I worked that the album’s tone became sunnier. It seems that I had redeemed myself by making art, if I couldn’t redeem the world.

Why should you care? The good news is, you don’t have to! I’ve achieved things I’m greatly proud of on this album, recorded the best guitar instrumental I might ever play in my life, wrote some probing lyrics that went beyond despair and shrill polemics. The victory is personal and belongs to me. If other people want to hear it, bless them, but I don’t force my music down anyone’s throat. If you, dear reader, are a fan of my stuff, I hope I can still make you happy even as I go off in different directions.

As I describe it on my CD Baby page, “the new album is a collection of pop songs, piano pieces, free form electric guitar jams and weird electronica made in order to navigate our tough political and spiritual times.” I made a switch to electronic music last year and recorded most of my last four albums in Garage Band, using computer instruments. Here, I reintroduce my guitar (which, I learned after a long period of being scared of the idea, can actually be plugged into an iPhone thanks to some clever electronics makers). It was about the same time that I discovered my ability and desire to do fast-finger runs on a guitar, which I think gives the electronic stuff more excitement and dimension.

I don’t think Donald Trump fans will object to these songs, since there are few outright insults. (You can read those on this post!) My greatest desire with my music, if I have any, is to encourage other people to make art–which anybody can do–or if not that, find new things they were capable of that they didn’t know about. Why is it important to me? Because it makes them better people. It reminds them of the constructive acts they are capable of, the creativity and imagination and empathy they’ve always had as gifted mammals crawling out of the caves. The pride a Donald Trump offers them is as ephemeral and cheap as the kiss of a prostitute. While some 63 million Trump voters painfully learn that lesson, it’s important for all of us to remember we can continue to work on things that make us feel good about ourselves. Giving to charity. Helping out our brothers and sisters in distress in Houston and Puerto Rico and Florida. Telling our children to do the right things and not hate–because that still matters. And becoming excited about the next thing around the corner. I found that ability very, very late in life. A cure for bitterness. And I won’t let the current political environment ruin that.

If you’re into it … my first single off the new album.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be releasing my 12th album.

Salon de la Guerre presents “In the Lake of Feral Mermaids,” a pop album about drifters, murder, mayhem, the end of idealism and the quest for responsible retirement planning–mostly set in sumptuous Caribbean locales. A set of radio friendly tunes here, though I threw in a couple of loud rockers for old times’ sake. Cover art by my buddy Corey Sanders.

Click here for the first single: