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Monthly Archives: June 2014
A fuller transcript because radio interview…
Kurt Anderson: “Are you comfortable playing the blues?”
Playing the blues intimidates me. Almost more than any other musical expression. You can’t fake it, and unless you’ve lived it, you can’t be true – merely authentic. And I’d rather eat, say, “true” Soul food than “authentic” Soul food, any day. The blues, along with most African American art forms, is an expression of a secret history, one that I may only learn about and process from afar.
That said, I’ve been down, way down. I’ve been to dark dark places inside myself, too. But have I ever had the true blues? History and culture have not oppressed (or suppressed) me in my lifetime (though my Jewish ancestors, even into the mid 20th century, were not so lucky). Depression, though debilitating and oppressive in its own way, does not “the blues” make. This challenge hit me right in a discomfort zone, which on some level, made it a perfect challenge to wrestle. I tried to approach with fearlessness, to conjure the courage of someone suffering the blues, hopefully, then, speaking to, recalling and giving safe harbor to the suffering. No judgments here.
Kurt Anderson: “Tell us about your process and approach to this recording.”
In W.C. Handy’s narrative, no one is in a fixed place, whether physical (Easy Rider) or mental (Susan Johnson). That’s the darkness of “the blues,” that you are robbed of a place in space and time – robbed of roots. As I wrote on SoundCloud in my track description, this story attempts to reconcile the desire to stay put with the yearning to run and never look back. The talk of technology and communication in the song (cablegrams, telegrams, letters, trains…) sent me thinking about the wait-times between communications, and then the spaces, static and snow between radio stations and tv stations. And then, broader, thinking about the spaces between songs around the same narrative. After all, W.C. Handy was continuing a story started in another song, jumping into it at a different time and place. What happened to Susan and her Easy Rider between those songs is part of the mystery. What happened to them was the blues.
Louis Armstrong’s recording helped get my timing right for the vocal part and understand the idiosyncrasies of the original’s 2/4 rhythm (I went 4/4, but did honor the underlying 12-bar structure). Then, Eartha Kitt’s take with Nat King Cole on piano opened a window into how to rearrange and rewrite some of the lyrics to suit my own style. In the end, I just tried to be “true” to myself rather than “authentic” to any canonical version. So mine is cool where the original is hot. I changed the chorus up, too, because when I’m blue, I’m more bVII-IV-I than V-IV-I.
I started by layering frozen guitar drones based on the melody lines and chords over some old royalty-free snippets of radio and static from a sound effects disc from the 80s. Then took a stab at the actual song, albeit with a new arrangement. I had intended to helix the drone and the straight track together in a more holistic way, but in the end, time got the better of me. So I cleaved the drone piece in two and bled each part into the straightforward track. In the context of my concept, Easy Rider drones along on a quiet train until hitting a town, where he’s seen and Susan is sent a message (Easy Rider’s unaware of that). Then, after some raucous celebration, Easy’s off again, real life receding into the background; time and communication technology just moving forward, though radio brodacasts, tape recordings, television surfing… oscillating into space with all the other particle waves…
Yesterday Disquiet.com‘s Marc Weidenbaum published a wonderful perspective on the Junto’s impact on the Studio360 Yellow Dog Blues cover challenge. In addition to featuring my contribution on this week’s Studio360, tracks by Junto members Ethan Hein and Tom Anderson (both in the set below) had been featured on the May 28th broadcast of Soudcheck, in which Kurt Anderson and Marc Anthony Thompson (Chocolate Genius) were interviewed by John Schaeffer.
Marc writes (via: http://disquiet.com/2014/06/27/got-those-junto-blues/):
Challenges like the blues cover initiated by Studio 360 have a lot in common with the Disquiet Junto: open calls based around a specific prompt. I’m always on the lookout for an external project that seems like it would be fun to put forward to the Junto, especially a project where the Junto’s interest in abstract sound might provide some unique contributions. This particular Studio 360 project seemed especially appropriate because of the sense in which the blues was never fully about composition as an end, but about a rich community of shared source material. The blues, like other forms of folk music, is a source of inspiration for the Creative Commons, and this seemed like a good time to make that connection. That connection is emphasized in the Studio 360 broadcast, when it’s mentioned how in the blues “lyrics are passed form person to person, generation to generation.”
A few days ago, I wrote on why I stated making tracks for the Junto and the impact its had on my process. And here’s the full set of the Disquiet Junto contributions to the Yellow Dog project (disquiet0125-junto360blues), many of which were never ported over to the Studio360 page:
Honored to have been highlighted as one of the two best tracks among some stellar contributions. Produced originally for Disquiet Junto challenge 0125.
By far the longest submission at 9:17, Westy Reflector sandwiches his psychedelically influenced cover in the static of a radio dial. Reflector (born Dave Westreich) tells Thompson, “No one in the story is in a fixed place. The Easy Rider’s not in a physically fixed place and Susan Johnson’s not in a mentally fixed place. Nobody seems to be fixed in time or in space.”
“I love that you gave it that much thought,” says Thompson. “Maybe that’s why it appealed to me on just so many levels and was my choice almost from the first time I heard it.”
Meta. I modeled for a noir book cover drawn by my friend and brilliant illustrator John Nickle. I always dreamed of life as a grizzled 1940s writer…
tuesday turtle rescue | prospect park pic.twitter.com/Zi6AfiRA4C
— westy reflector (@westyreflector) June 24, 2014
Published on Jun 22, 2014
Otra vez cogimos nuestras Royal Enfields 350cc con @JayBarbaNegra a ver qué nos trae la carretera.
Nuestras motos nos llevaron por la siguiente ruta: Bogotá – La Calera – Chingaza – Guasca – Sopó – Bogotá. 133 kilómetros de viaje. Colombia.
Again we took our Royal Enfields 350cc withJayBarbaNegra to see what brings us the road.
Our bikes were shown by the following route: Bogota – La Calera – Chingaza – Guasca – Sopo – Bogota. 133 kilometer trip. Colombia.
Canción: Westy Reflector – Long Road Ahead
In May 2014, artists were given permission to project a light show onto the soon-but-at-the-time-not-yet-known-to-be decommissioned Kentile Floors sign on 9th Street in Brooklyn.
with the kentile sign coming down, figured i’d revisit this lo-fi vid from 2011. shot w/ a nikon d90 during that year’s reconstruction of the smith/9th subway station from a manhattan-bound f-train. the video runs in reverse. coney-island bound is the other side of the tracks. everything about this track is inside out, tho, so it fit.