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Archive for the ‘Salon De La Guerre’ Category

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 its 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 serious 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 works like it feed my rock music (and vice versa), and allow 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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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.

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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:

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The Church of Low Expectations (2)My 11th album, “The Church of Low Expectations” is now available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby, released under my nom de rock,  Salon de la Guerre. It’s a pop album of dark doings, where strained, ethically challenged characters straddle the abyss but reach for the light. As I say on the music sites, it continues my “exploration of electronic music as a means of balancing noise and melody. Its lyrics include small vignettes of players and grifters who wistfully muse about life, helplessness and horror.”

This is my fourth album in 2016. I somehow managed to get 65 new songs produced since January after switching to Garage Band software on my iPhone 6s. Again, I don’t know if this is an advertisement for me or for Apple. I did sometimes use available loops and drum beats from Garage Band, but I also discovered a heretofore undiscovered talent to play piano–as long as it’s a tiny piano on a tiny phone. That made the arranging fast and easy.

Though “The Church of Low Expectations” and “Roses Don’t Push the Car Home” (released a couple of months ago) were recorded simultaneously and were really twin albums, I did see them diverging in theme and mood. “Roses” is more poppy and upbeat, and “Church” is more brooding and experimental, much more focused on dark themes like death and isolation, but unlike my album “Toe-Tapping Songs of Pain and Loss,” it’s thrown over garage rock noise for electronica and hip-hop beats.

It was a big leap for me and probably strange for anybody who has heard or liked any of my older albums. But it was worth it. Blame it on Apple, but I found new things I could do with music this year and I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited or confident about making it.

For now, I’m going to let it rest. Of course, I have more song fragments in my head, but for now I need to attend to my long-neglected novels. If my time with music has taught me anything, it’s that finishing things feels really great.

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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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