Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Liberty Cover

It just so happens that it is. Salon de la Guerre’s 10th album has just hit the digital music stores–CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.

The album is an aural collage. Twenty musical fragments meant to be listened to forward, backward or minced up, plus there are a few novelty numbers for sass. Steve Reich meets Talking Heads. OK, I just made that up. It’s simply a strange experiment in classical music-derived tunes and rock.

I made this album simultaneously with “Gravitas: A Life,” and as “Gravitas” developed as an extended musical work with repeated motifs, I tried to do the opposite with “Liberty.” This album invites shuffling.

As I say in the artist’s description on CD Baby:

“The album is meant to be listened to from beginning to end, from back to front or on shuffle—a reflection of the way music is now consumed and emotionally processed by audiences. The album largely removes traditional pop melodies and opts for song phrases that are more open ended and jarringly interrupted, whose beginnings and endings are as nebulous as those of the album itself. Unlike its predecessor, “Gravitas: A Life,” the album thwarts the idea of structural intelligence in a pop album so that the job of reconstituting the music belongs to the listener.”

Again, all the music is arranged and composed by me. And although the album is an electronic work and defies the idea of “performance,” especially when I occasionally use loops, beats and samples, many of these are in fact keyboard parts performed by me on Garage Band’s internal synthesizer. The album, like “Gravitas” and “Roses Don’t Push The Car Home,” was part of a quartet of albums I produced almost entirely on my iPhone. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to be impressed by me or by Apple.

And of course the model on the cover is my lovely wife, looking stranded as she ponders a dark bamboo forest near a Buddhist temple in Kyoto.


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Gravitas Album Cover

As I noted a while back, I ventured into classically inspired symphonic music this past spring, and completed a long-form piece called “Gravitas: A Life.” It is now available on Amazon.com, CD Baby and iTunes.

I still have a lot of garage rock music under my belt and will be releasing more of it in the upcoming weeks, but on this, my ninth album, I was curious to see whether I could make something designed for an orchestra.

I describe the album this way on my CD Baby page: “A symphonic work mixing classical music approaches such as concerto grosso, atonality, musique concrete and minimalism, as well as rock ‘n’ roll rhythms.” “A pastiche” might be a better phrase. I hope it doesn’t sound like jive, in any case, because the process was completely intuitive and I can leave it to others to decide what to call it. Whether you think of it as a stress-test for the iPhone on which I made it, a movie soundtrack looking for a film to play on or just nice background music, I hope you enjoy it.

For perhaps another week or so, I’m leaving an earlier version of the album in its entirety up on YouTube, where you can enjoy it for free for the time being.



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I know you did not believe me when I said I had written a lot of music in the last three months, dear reader. For documentary proof, I submit to you my first symphony, which I completed over the last month. It’s called “Gravitas: A Life,” and it was my way of stress-testing my iPhone software as well as seeing if I could write a long-form musical piece. I’m happy with the results.

I’ve put the entire thing on YouTube to share it with friends and get feedback. In a month or two, I plan to put it on CD Baby after doing a bit more mastering (there are a few treble problems I’d like to fix, since I’m all about that bass).

I’m not sure if it’s a real classical piece, a pitch for me as a writer of film scores or a bit of muzak, but you might enjoy listening to it as background music or for contemplation, if nothing else. Enjoy. And if you do, please leave comments here or on YouTube and feel free to share it with your friends. Hurry, before I start charging for it!

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Roses Don't Push The Car Home_edited-1At the beginning of this year, fans, I thought I might be done with music for a while. I had just released my seventh album, “Clam Fake,” which I thought was my best achievement with music so far, and I was ready to go back and work with some other media. (I also love spending time with my beloved 4-year-old son, but that’s another matter).

Because I’m an untutored music producer, most of my musical experiments have been made on a very old laptop with a very, very old version of a musical production software called Cubase LE. There is no support for this thing or for many of the old electronic boxes you could talk to it with (if you think the major software companies are unconcerned about the life cycle of the products they make you depend on, imagine the unmerciful attitude of a company whose business is musical equipment). With my old Cubase cutting out on me and my understanding of the next generation product practically nil, I felt as if I were going to have to learn a new language, and I thought, “No more music for me.”

But then I made a small discovery: My wife had bought me an iPhone 6 for Christmas, and tucked away on this tiny smartphone like a pea among many other apps I’d never use was a cute little version of Garage Band. I’d never had a Mac, and my initial confrontation with the product on the iPad didn’t give me confidence the phone version would be any good.

But then I made a song with it. Then another. Then, folks, I’d shamefully admit that I started to go fucking crazy. Since the beginning of this year, I have made almost four albums’ worth of music. Forty-five brand new songs. On my freakin’ phone! I made music in bed. I made music waiting for the treadmill. I made music while waiting for my wife to get out of the bathroom. I’ve made music on the train to work.

I do not want this to sound like an advertisement for Garage Band, necessarily, but there’s probably no hope of it sounding otherwise. A lot of the rawness of my producing that’s fairly obvious on my previous seven albums has been greatly reined in by Garage Band’s sound compression (it automatically gets rid of ugly frequencies I had to adjust for manually). I have also availed myself of loops and beats. So anybody familiar with my old stuff might be in for a shock and wonder what was up. No, the earth shattering reason for my change in sound was actually a banal software change.

What you have, of course, is a new album with almost no live instruments on it (real guitars appear only on two tracks, which were held over from “Clam Fake.”) There are some people who might find this offensive and fake. I’m one of those lucky people who don’t care. I like playing a real guitar and have on occasion done it well, but I feel that anybody who calls himself an artist works with imagination first and foremost and doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the materials used so much as the spirit that’s brought to them. Of course that means I can play rock music on my phone. Why the hell not?

That attitude is hopefully the continuity you might otherwise not see between my older work and the new album.

My eighth release is called “Roses Don’t Push The Car Home.” As of today (May 27) it is available on CD Baby and Amazon, and it will soon pop up on iTunes and other places where music is (still) sold.

Check out a sample of “Roses Don’t Push The Car Home” below:

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RIP Prince

I remember first hearing “When Doves Cry” and not liking it because it was raffish and disorienting. Then I realized it had no bass line. It’s a funk song without a bass. Prince said he’d written a bass part but then he didn’t like it and he threw it out and put the damn song on the radio that way. He could do that. Why? Just because he could. And in doing so, the maestro opened up my parochial ears.

I remember watching “Purple Rain” and listening to the bit between Morris Day and his foil–a comedy routine that recalled “Who’s On First” by Abbott and Costello. I knew it was a ripped off bit and I knew that Prince knew that I knew it was a ripped-off bit. What he was doing was tipping his hat to showbiz. He was of it. He felt an obligation to it. Miles Davis said that an unrecognized influence on Prince was Charlie Chaplin. I sort of understand that.

He refused to duet with Michael Jackson in “Bad” supposedly because he didn’t want to sing “Your butt is mine” or have it sung to him. That seems like he was a bit finicky and silly about his image. But really, it might have also signaled good taste.

I remember watching “Purple Rain” later and realizing that Prince respected the medium of film more than other people who dabbled in it (I think of Frank Zappa or Andy Warhol, who with the dismissive tone of people from different art forms, just let the camera run and put weird stuff in front of it, thinking the idea revolutionary when it was actually incredibly boring.) Again, Prince did not put himself above entertaining, and therefore understood how you entertained in different media.

I remember how he absorbed different musical styles and made them part of his language. He put funk, R&B, rock and jazz into the service of spiritual and sexual obsessions, two timeless subjects that will ensure his art will never get old even if he seemed to freely admit that his quests left him without answers. That’s what artists do: they question. If you are the kind of person you believes he has answers to everything, and you are smug about it, you have stopped being an artist. You’re a politician, maybe. A polemicist. A teacher. But you have ceded the provinces of the imagination.

I didn’t listen to a lot of Prince’s later work, which was less compelling, but I realize he never stopped questioning. He was always an artist, and with his death, a bright light goes out.


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If you buy one album this year … it should really be “Blackstar” by David Bowie. If you buy two albums … then maybe you should add “La vache qui pleure” by Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

But if you buy 23 albums this year, I hope one of them might be my new release, “Clam Fake,” now available on Amazon and iTunes and other places where music is (still sold).



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Clam Fake Album Cover_edited-1

Dear readers, I returned to music in the latter half of 2015 and my seventh (!!!) album is coming out this month. It comprises 12 new songs of rock and pop and a wee bit of jazz. The record is called Clam Fake, and it drops in a week or so on iTunes and Amazon (as well as other sites like CD Baby). By “drops” I mean it will be released or issued. I have not physically dropped anything. That’s just slang to make me look more hip and knowledgeable.

Those of you who are fans might be surprised by some of the new territory I’m staking out. After almost 27 years, for instance, I picked up an alto saxophone, an instrument I had not put my fingerprints on since I was a teenager. My new interest in this instrument was sparked partly because I wanted to see what a sax sounded like next to a trivially tuned guitar orchestra. I was also mildly curious to see what I could still do with a dear woodwind so estranged from me. The saxophone is the only instrument I’ve actually been tutored on, but I learned nothing about music theory or chords from it. I gave it up partly because I wanted to learn songwriting on instruments like the guitar that I had taught myself so that creativity, discovery and technique could grow together. In other words, I wanted to be a punk and not know how to play the instrument I was playing.

But I was pleasantly surprised in one 10 minute jam that I could not only squeeze music from the sax but do it for some 10 uninterrupted minutes of long, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman-inspired improvisation. This jam became the basis of two songs on Clam Fake, one of which is called “Red Clay Moses” (attached here).

The rest of the album relies heavily on guitar, however, and will be more familiar to my fans (such as they are), though I am also very proud to say that I’ve grown as a singer, guitarist and producer, and that Clam Fake is more listenable all the way through than my previous efforts.

You might have noticed my new songs already in the list on the right. The ones at the top are from Clam Fake, and are interspersed with six outtakes (in a hat tip to the nice critic from the Equal Ground who said I should filter more, I have left weaker songs off the album this time, though I am quite pleased to say that I now boast some 95 songs among my intellectual property, all of which are at home here on my blog).

If you like what you hear on this page, you can hear more on my Soundcloud page, and if you like that too, please spread the word!

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