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Golem Vs. DuendeIn a few weeks, I will release my 23rd album, Golem Vs. Duende. It comprises 10 movements of microtonal experiments and musique concrète.

For this new album, I took iPhone samples of my home environment and the New York City subway; it employs the percussive use of scissors, pots and pans, fences, doors, escalators and all other sorts of found objects that allow me to play the wannabe microtones my piano and guitar would not. I just recently discovered Maestro Harry Partch and his ingenious system of tones. However, I have not developed my own musical notation system nor have I built my own instruments with 43 pitches per octave. So I had to make due with playing the non-instruments around me. Then I mixed back into it my more traditional melodies on piano and synthesizer.

If I were to continue on this course, I would likely move it back around to pop music or work the approach into some type of roots music. I don’t have the musical training, but I have strategies. If this is your first time listening to my music, I should remind you that I’m all over the map, and that most of these experiments feed my alternative rock albums.

In this time of despair, I still see endless possibility. Though my family feels a little cooped up during the quarantine, we are creative and have plenty of things to do at home. So that’s what I’m going to depend on in these crazy times: My imagination.

The album was composed and performed by me at my home studio (and on location) in early 2020. I also did the cover art.

Listen to a sample of the album here:

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Understood, she said
But she didn’t understand.
Message received, he thought, but they were
Using terms differently.
My green isn’t your green
My over isn’t your over. My silence is only my silence
Not your aggression.
You argued the words
And missed the sentence.
“Stupid” sounds worse to her than it did to me.
“I love your body” sounded like I didn’t love her mind
The resonant frequency of the building was ineluctable
The bridge jumped
Dissonance was the music.

You cannot live with two sounds now
You must go out
And live among the many

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Tangled in the sun, the bird he flew
Came back, didn’t say what he knew
Came back with a song he knew only as a scream
Came back in a life he knew only as a dream

Wax in my ears, the siren quakes the sea
I don’t know what the sirens sing to me
Basaltic rock you wake dead or as a king
When you hear the sirens sing
Stuffed my ears with the wax from the bees
I don’t know what the Sirens sing

I ate a bird, something that flew
I wondered if it he knew he was through
I fly when I dream and that means I fly
People think they can’t, I don’t know why
Tangled in the sun the bird he flew
Came back didn’t say what he knew

Wax in my ears the siren quakes the sea
I don’t know what the sirens sang to me
Basaltic rock you wake dead or as a king
When you hear the sirens sing
Stuffed out ears with the wax from the bees
I don’t know what the Sirens sang to me

(Lyrics to the song “The Sirens,” now available on the Salon de la Guerre album From Sour To Cinnamon, copyright 2019.)

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Last week, I sent my 300th song to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Of course, a few of those hundreds of songs are repeats and reprises from my two classical albums, but if you add in the smattering of songs I’ve thrown away, it’s a wash, and 300 is a good official number. And of course, I have proof of this on my Bandcamp page, if anybody wants to fact-check me. Go! Count them! (The last 10 are going up within a week or two.)

I have a new milestone in a couple of months that also has a zero in it. That one I have less control over.

And that’s led me to a message for older people out there: I wrote more than two-thirds of this music in the last three years, a period of explosive growth for me as a songwriter, and during what people would call middle age. In my 20s, I wrote only a few dozen songs, and perhaps doubled that number in my 30s. But since 2016, at which time I was well into my 40s, I’ve made 14 albums, writing music everywhere–on the train, on the plane, on the treadmill, on the couch. I even tried to stop for months at a time while I worked on fiction, but it got to where I was writing songs unconsciously just walking around the store.

You might sniff and say it’s just the robot software doing it all. I have been, after all, writing stuff in GarangeBand–on my phone–and a lot of my work involves tape loops and buttons. But that’s the wrong conclusion. My guitar playing, both in speed and nuance, got three times better in 2016. And I suddenly started playing piano with no training in 2018. The iPhone is helping me, but it’s not writing the music or arranging it.

How have I become so prolific later in life? I don’t know. I have no idea why it all suddenly came to me. It’s been said and demonstrated to me over and over that we’re all supposed to lose inspiration and start sucking at art, and especially uptempo music, when we get older. We lose our muse. We get complacent. We resist the new ideas; our minds are less malleable, less playful, less able to assimilate new truths and discoveries and all else that makes you a great artist. That’s the conventional wisdom.

It’s also a crock of shit. Your ability to discover new talent within yourself has no age limit. Your style has no age limit. The idea of your imminent deterioration as you age is largely a mental and social construct–not unlike the fabrication that high school was the best times of our lives. Both ideas, we ought to suspect, have more to do with other people’s pitch to sell us stuff, and less to do with essential truths.

So this is something new I hope I could offer, besides my music itself: I can tell you unequivocally that I found an ocean of inspiration in my 40s, that these have easily been my peak years as an artist, peaks I hope will be eclipsed in my 50s.

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Another song from my album Air Is a Public Good.
Music and lyrics by Eric Randolph Rasmussen.

“Under the Wing”

The devil now I know walks among us
The devil has a condo on Lake Tahoe

I would never know the path
That bell I can’t unring
And the devil had me under his wing

I was selling real estate
To a couple from Sulphur Springs
And the devil had me under his wing

They wanted more than a town house
They wanted to share their lonely love
With me

And now I know the darkness
And now I know the need
And the devil had me under his wing

They wanted to use my body
And prey on my clean living
And the devil had me under his wing

God you can’t sell real estate in this
Sinful town
Heaven don’t have a toilet for fallen angels like me

They wanted to use my body
And prey on my clean living
And the devil had me under his wing

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There are a lot of Eric Rasmussens in the world, many of whom I’ve recently discovered are tilling the same fields that I am. I’ve seen Eric Rasmussens at work in journalism, law, literary criticism, polemics, music and fiction. That’s bound to create confusion.

Again, my full name is Eric Randolph Rasmussen. I’ve written a companion piece for this post telling you who I am. Out of respect for the other Eric Rasmussens, I felt the need to give you a list of the ones I am not:

Eric Ralph Rasmussen, pro baseball player.

This one seems pretty obvious. This was the only other Eric Rasmussen I’d ever heard of growing up. I never worried people would confuse us. I can barely pitch, catch or bat.

Eric David Rasmussen, physician, medical ethicist, humanitarian

Again, I’m not too worried about you getting us confused. This guy has an interesting career and is worth your attention.

Eric Rasmussen, writer, editor of Barstow & Grand

This Eric Rasmussen is a Wisconsin-based fiction writer and very nice guy who sent me a nice note and has an excellent blog and lots of excellent fiction. I do not wish to steal his thunder.

Why the confusion: We are both literary fiction writers. I do not see any novels on his resume (he mentions an unpublished manuscript), and I have never published any short stories (outside of a few bad experiments on my blog) but there are obvious reasons people are going to confuse us. For that reason, I have made sure to put “Eric Randolph Rasmussen” on most of my fiction, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see it on my journalism.

Eric Rasmussen, jazz saxophonist, composer, band leader of the Eric Rasmussen Quartet, director of instrumental music at Scottsdale Community College

Alto saxophone player Eric Rasmussen has played with a number of big jazz names (you can find some of his music here), and his musical focus is jazz while mine is alternative rock and punk, but there are several reasons people might get us confused, especially if they knew me back in the day in Oklahoma.

Why the confusion: Several reasons. We have both been New Yorkers, we have both lived all over the country, we are both composers and we both play alto saxophone (though he actually worked at it his entire career while I gave it up for two decades). I have mostly stayed away from jazz on my albums, but Salon de la Guerre fans know that I have wormed my way through all sorts of different genres and finally jumped into some jazz a few years ago, yanking out my long-dormant alto sax chops for two songs on Salon de la Guerre’s album Clam Fake. I have done only two extended improvisations with jazz saxophone, one of which is on a song called “Red Clay Moses,” which you can hear on YouTube.  Jazz sax player Eric Rasmussen deserves his many accolades, but “Red Clay Moses,” a cross between jazz and Sonic Youth guitar, is all mine.

Eric Dean Rasmussen, associate professor of English literature at the University of Stavanger.

I first followed Eric Dean Rasmussen for a couple of reasons: He was a literature guy and, more important, he was the first of us with the cunning to grab the Ericrasmussen.com domain name. There can be only one, Highlander!

That said, most of his work, as far as I can tell, is literary criticism and theory, subjects I’ve studiously avoided since college. I never worried too much people would confuse us. Besides, he was in Chicago and then later, apparently, Norway.

Why the confusion: Still, we are both lovers of literature, and we both somehow at some point met with (and wrote about) famous superhero literary publisher Barney Rosset, founder of the Grove Press and publisher of Samuel Beckett and Henry Miller. Eric Dean met Rosset through his work at a literary organization. I met Rosset at a bar. Though the other Eric was seemingly better prepared for the encounter and knew more about Rosset to begin with, I must give myself some points for not misspelling Rosset’s name. (I have some advantages being a journalist.)

I see that Eric Dean and I also have a very tenuous connection through the website Altx.com. He has articles posted there, and I used to be associated with a literary magazine called Io that had links to the site as well.

Eric Rasmussen, internationally renowned Shakespeare scholar, foundation professor at the University of Nevada at Reno

Again, I wasn’t too worried about being mistaken for a Shakespeare scholar, though we are both authors and we are both on Amazon. He’s even on YouTube!

Eric Rasmussen, actor.

I took an acting class once and I’m enthralled by the subject, but I have mostly left that field to my wife.

Eric Rasmussen, professor of communication.

I don’t see much room for confusion here, though I do have a communications degree (in journalism) from the University of Texas, and it could be somebody somewhere gets us confused.

Eric Rasmussen, Twin Cities broadcast news investigative reporter, KSTP TV

This guy’s been in Boston and Minneapolis. I’ve never been in front of a camera, but we are both journalists.

Eric B. Rasmussen, business professor at Indiana University. This guy is known for tweets deemed by many to be sexist and racist, and the university itself has called his online sentiments “vile.” I won’t link to him, and I am only including him here because I want to make sure people never confuse me with this person.

I will leave it at that. I recall seeing other people with my name also pursuing music journalism (an old part-time vocation of mine) and statistics and hockey, but I’m not too worried about being confused with those people. I’ll add names to this list later if I think anybody is going to mix me up with someone else.

 

 

 

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IYou're Going To Regret What You Did -final (002) turned my attention to fiction writing this year, and slowed down the torrid pace of music releases from the previous two years. Still, my perverse need to bounce around genres had me this summer quickly recording an album of piano numbers and a proto-punk album simultaneously.

The piano album came out a few weeks ago. This month I’m releasing Salon de la Guerre’s punk album, You’re Going To Regret What You Did, a song full of short, fast numbers on political anomie, compulsion, addiction and mental illness. And it’s fun! I wanted to let my listeners know, if they care, that I am determined to go as far as I’d like experimenting with avant-garde music and classical yet still happily come home to the music I hold most dear, which tends to fall on the proto-punk rainbow cast by the New York Dolls, the Stooges and the Velvet Underground.

I recorded the album at my home during the summer on Garage Band and I’m responsible for all the songs and performances. One day maybe I’ll collaborate, but it’s hard enough arranging play dates for my child.

The cover art is by my friend, the eminently talented Corey Brian Sanders.

The album should be available on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Spotify in a week or so. Here is the first track:

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Over the next two weeks, I’ll be releasing two new albums under the name of my musical act “Salon de la Guerre.” The first, Yipano, comes out Monday and is my first-ever album of piano compositions, some with lyrics, others totally instrumental. The other is an album of punk songs called You’re Going To Regret What You Did.

Here is a sample of the former, a song called “The Donner Party Follies.” Enjoy.

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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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