“i’m afraid i don’t want to be out of control what if happiness scares me? she follows me like a shadow found in drumbeats and embraces and the feeling of pushing forward the song i’m listening to flutters i have fluttered before i will flutter again i don’t like it because my happiness comes out loud shout it to the heavens i’m happy and i don’t know why”
For some reason, people have always said I’m resilient, as if that’s something I want. All it meant to me was that I didn’t kill myself when my dad died, when XYZ happened, etc., that plodding on should be applauded. It didn’t mean that I was going anywhere. It didn’t mean I was proud of myself or living for anything.
When I met my husband, all of that began to change. I was living, at the very least, to be able to spend time with him and make sure he was happy. Even when I wanted to blot myself off the face of the Earth, he was there.
When I moved to Alaska, things changed even more. As mentioned previously, two psychiatric professionals took down the notion that I needed to be on hundreds of milligrams of meds a day, allowing me to cut back on my unnecessarily doses. He was the one who set all of this in motion. He was the first one actively involved in my care to challenge the idea that I could be crazy.
With all of these changes, I feel more energetic, hopeful, and happy. The happiness baffles me. It now rents out the space where sadness used to be, and it is almost persistent in its pursuit of me. It’s wild, loud, and feels dangerous. I still don’t trust it, and still confuse it with going crazy. It involves a lot of shouting for joy.
It can be compared to the end of a hero’s journey story where the hero arrives at the same place they started, but changed. It’s like, this is new, what do I do now?
I’ve been throwing myself wholeheartedly into my tutoring, which is awesome. Lots of new music has been made, and this long overdue thing is in the works…
People have been wanting to read my poems in a book for a bit, so I will make it happen.
There have been several game changing points in my time of making music. The first game changer was the release of Little Voice by Sara Bareilles. I happened upon that record when I was looking for another song that I had heard in the video game Thrillville. For a kid, that game had a great soundtrack, and I still listen to many of the songs from the soundtrack to this day.
I heard “Love Song”, the album’s main single, first because it was that day’s free download on iTunes waaay back in late 2008. In hindsight, that was a lucky day because it would eventually change the way I think and write musically. Even though I didn’t find the song I was looking for, “Lovesong” by Annie Stela, I did discover Sara Bareilles, and my life changed forever.
A couple months later, I was in a store called Hastings, which sold all kinds of electronics. This included CDs. My Mimi had a tradition of taking my brother and me to Hastings, where we could buy one item and get one drink from the cafe. It was getting late in the day and we’d already been there for an hour or two and I still hadn’t found anything I wanted. Just as we were about to leave, I scanned the tracklist on an album called Little Voice and saw that it had “Love Song” on it, the song that I had played on repeat for the last few months. I snatched it up and bought it with a gift card.
To say that that album was well loved was an understatement. I only liked the opening few tracks at first, but as time went on, I played the album all the way through at least once a day.
I was baffled by the album, especially when I read through the liner notes and found that Sara had had a hand in writing all of the songs on the album! How was that possible?
I asked my mom that same question, and her answer was that songwriting is poetry set to music. I was still baffled until one day I sat down at my keyboard after playing far too many hours of playing the video game Wii Music and the melody of “Ride of the Valkyries” flowed out from under my fingertips. That really threw me through a loop. How had I done that?
That didn’t stop me. I picked out melodies whenever I could, and a few days later, I achieved what I once thought impossible – I wrote a song. I poured my twelve year old soul into a few notes and composed an ode to my first crush. It was a hit among my classmates, and was actually called “Ode”.
Here is the original recording, recorded onto a Creative Zen MP3 player in 2009. I can’t believe I actually found it.
The next big leap was when I discovered Pandora Internet Radio.
Pandora fueled the writing of an album, two books, and helped me discover music on my own. I was raised with the music of the ’60s though the ’90s, and listening to modern pop music was discouraged by my dad, who preferred to listen to U2, the Police, REM, and the like. My mom listened to a lot of disco, ’80s pop, and ’70s folk. My dad even went as far as to say that he did not marry my mother for her music taste. Even today, my music taste leans more toward my dad’s, but I did inherit my love of ’80s pop from my mom.
Pandora helped me discover my own styles of music, and eventually they influenced my songwriting and poetry. It took several flops and another year for me to compile an album’s worth of music, and I took to my 100-year old piano to record. It took 3 months and take after take to get some semblance of an album. It was never finished, because a producer took over and turned my happy songs into poppy wonders. I don’t consider them my best work, because my songs aren’t happy as a whole. The Mellon Session, my first album-length recording, spare though it may be, is a better representation of my style and body of work than Sweet Pea (the EP we recorded) is. But it was a start.
The EP dropped in November of 2011, and remained on the Internet for a year until we took it down. It was never rereleased.
My dad died in 2016, and that sparked a whole new level of creativity within me. In many ways, it was the final push I needed to record albums 4-8. Add that to the toxic environment of Idaho school, and the albums flowed fairly quickly.
Candy for Trees is a different story, however. I believe it was in this post that I spoke about how CFT was formed. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring helped my instrumental style come together. In many ways, I feel as though I’m coming out of the melancholy that dominated the last eight vocal-and-instrument albums and entering a new era.
My last release, Light Steps, was me exploring the sounds of my keyboard and creating landscapes with it. It was recorded last night.
I listened to a lot of experimental music last night as I was trying not to fall asleep, and they all struck me deeply.
Some might think that this would not be considered music, but I think it is. It’s just a different way of using the sound as a canvas, much like some people debate and wonder whether abstract art is truly art.
If I had to describe myself in song, the genre would be experimental, or even atonal.
While I am a musician and enjoy making tonal music, I believe that my personality is best described by abstract, wilds sounds. It’s part of who I am. I’m offbeat, for lack of a better word. This abstract music was something that my soul seemed to be drawn to. Now, to get in the mood to write this post, I am listening to a shared favorite of my dad and me – the Bad Plus.
Their music is crazy. While it’s not quite atonal, they certainly do whatever the hell they want to. Shown above is a cover of a David Bowie song, “Life on Mars.” Some of their music is somewhat straightforward, but then songs like this and another perennial favorite, “Silence is the Question”, completely take me to another level.
It’s a whole other level of feeling. I find a sense of freedom here, whereas the best tonal, rhythmic music I have heard doesn’t feel as raw and real for me as the abstract sounds of these experimental artists do. They’re doing whatever they want, and they don’t give a damn who judges them. That’s a goal of mine right there.
So yes. While some might dismiss abstract music as utter nonsense, I find an emotional and artistic connection to it that I don’t often find elsewhere. It’s a newer way I have found to stick it to tradition and make music with raw emotion without saying a word.
This piece of mine, “Limping Dance”, is an example of what I want to do. It was improvised almost in its entirety, with a few notes stolen from other pieces, like the opening few seconds sounding a bit like “Habanera” from the opera Carmen and snatches of some pieces from previous albums of mine in there, too.
There’s another improv for y’all – a piece on my ukulele called “Misspeaking”. It’s tuned so that the open strings make a chord, and that makes for some odd sounds. This should be going up on my Bandcamp page today. It sounds lonely and scary to me.
You might be wondering what on Earth this has to do with anything, all this abstract music and whatnot. My point here is that I think I’m dancing – limping or not – into a time where I shed the notions that I have absorbed throughout my youth, “don’t play off-rhythm” being one of those. Rhythm isn’t everything, people, and saying otherwise can be lonely and scary.
I remember getting an MRI once for these headaches I was having. The tech asked if I wanted earphones so I could listen to the radio while the machine was going. I said no, because my dad had told me that morning that MRI machines weren’t scary and that they make awesome rhythmic sounds. And he was right.
I emerged from my MRI having fallen asleep, I was so relaxed. When the same tech asked how I had done the session without music. My mom piped in, saying that for me, it is music. She couldn’t have said it better. Even that clunky-sounding MRI machine was magical because it made awesome sounds.
I know there’s music all around me. What I have to do is take my thumb off the mic and listen.
If you want to hear more of the weird and wonderful music I make, you can subscribe to me here. It’s worth it, and you’ll never run out of things to listen to.
Hey, all! I’m double dipping today. I’d like to talk about a poem that is very special to me. It’s called “Your Empire”. I wrote it two years ago. It opens like so:
you are more than a princess, darling girl -you are a queen – an empress
and you are loved more than you know
there will be times when you’ll be
punched in the gut
kicked in the ribs
but your true wisdom comes in
knowing whether to form a fist or
extend your hand…
First lines of “Your Empire”, written 3/6/17
I love this poem because it’s what I wish I could have believed about myself at that time and what I don’t want anyone to forget, no matter their gender or age.
I owe the empire theme to my obsession with the Byzantine Empire, which is still an obsession of mine, hence my blog title. My favorite historical character of all time is the Byzantine Empress Theodora. Someone once said I was like her, and that was probably the biggest compliment I have ever received. This poem is me telling anyone who needs it that they are noble and deserving of that title. That includes myself. It continues:
…because some battles that need to be fought
and some battles that are fought
need to be ignored
and a true empress – like you – knows which is which
and what to do.
“where is my empire?”
you may ask.
I will place my hand over my heart
and say, “darling, every time you are knocked
over and you stand up again, think of that as a conquest.”
At this time in my life, I was in Idaho college and I needed some encouragement. The environment was becoming toxic to me and I wanted to feel okay again. This was one of the ways I helped myself. I also sent this and other poems to friends who seemed to be in need of them. This one is by far my favorite of the bunch.
I definitely need to listen to myself in the lines about conquest. I don’t take my own advice well enough. It’s true, I am conquering. I am ruling. I am becoming more and more involved in my own life. That’s important. A ruler wouldn’t let things just…happen to them, would they? No, they wouldn’t.
Planning is hard for me, though. It’s hard for me to get up and say, “I’m gonna do XYZ today”, even when I am happy. I tend to let the day just pass without making plans. It’s important to remember that part of owning my life and empire is to plan for the future.
With my tutoring, I don’t schedule very far in advance since I’m a hired gun that gets requests usually only a few hours before the student wants to meet. I’m surprised nobody has wanted to meet in the middle of the night yet! As a result, my days are fairly open. I have my to do lists, but I need to make an actual schedule.
Part of me thinks, “Oh, but it’s a struggle to get out of bed early!” Then there’s another part that’s like, “Fortify yourself, dammit. You won’t get anywhere with that attitude. Do you want to build your empire, or not?”
Okay, okay. I’m gonna fortify myself. Let’s continue with the poem.
every good thing you do, every struggle that you
overcome, every person you make smile –
oh, my dear, those are conquests. and in the end,
the biggest conquest you can make
is learning to love yourself
and others even though they –
and their empires – are imperfect.
I am learning that hard things are essential for growth and that I can’t quit if I want to make it in life, in anything. I can’t quit on myself, either. Like the last lines of the poem say, “the biggest conquest you can make is learning to love yourself and others even though they – and their empires – are imperfect.” Self sabotage gets me nowhere. Learning to love myself is important. It’s an important step towards progress. It will require much self-fortification. It takes strength to love oneself, I am finding. Also, I feel so much happier after being off social media all day. 10/10 so far, will continue.
Update: I have actually composed music today! Yes!
Would you like for me to write YOU a song, poem, or even an album? Got a special occasion coming up? I’m on WhatsApp, so if you shoot me a message there, we can start a conversation!
I haven’t changed out of my pajamas today and have been feeling quite lonely and sorry for myself. My husband is in Anchorage working and I miss him. He shouldn’t have to go to Anchorage on the weekends* unless it’s for fun! The man works way too much. So even though I have already posted today, I’m going to post again.
I’ve been listening to the Rite of Spring far too much lately. It opens with a solo bassoon and is known for brutal time signatures and dissonance – what’s not to love? It’s what the kids call a hot mess, and it’s like me, but in classical music form.
I love songs written in odd time signatures, and my favorite movement of the Rite so far, “The Augurs of Spring”, causes me to geek out beyond words. The opening, pounding chord just gets me every time. Call me weird, but the Rite really causes me to think instead of just going along with the piece. It is layered and complex. It’s not for everyone.
Listening to one song by another complex group of artists is enough to make my mom nervous. The group is The Bad Plus, and the song is called “Silence is the Question”. It was a favorite of my dad’s, and it is a favorite of mine. I’ll show it to you.
It’s a bit on the long side, but it’s worth every second. If it makes YOU nervous, feel free and give it a pass. I’ll love you just the same.
These pieces are like me because they are frenetic, all over the place, and don’t always make harmonic – or even rhythmic – sense. I make sense in some ways, but I definitely don’t have enough common sense, I’ll admit that straight off. I change my mind a lot and still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve been playing with the same energy that makes up these songs and myself, and have come up with what could be a musical self portrait. My strumming finger has been out of commission, so I haven’t been able to practice my ukes. I have taken to writing sheet music on my computer instead. Here’s what parts one through three sound like.
The title of Part One is Clusterf**k in C# major (pardon my French here) and it says so on the header of the score. It lives up to its name – two pianos bashing against each other rhythmically and melodically for nearly a minute. It’s in 5/4 and is as crazy as me.
If that’s not crazy enough, I switched things up just to be sadistic for Part Two and wrote in 7/4 with the same seven sharp key signature, my old friend C#. If you’re not musical, all you need to know is that I’m insane. If you are musical, you need no explaining. You already know. On top of that, there are very few parts of Part Two that actually make melodic sense. It’s kind of representative of my manic side.
Part Three is simple compared to the first two parts. 2/4, but same key signature and with a recorder this time. I like recorders. Recorders are nice. I want to see these parts played by someone who knows what they’re doing. I feel like a supervillain cackling in the wings. Or at least I will be.
I now need to write a fourth part that resembles my depressive side, or maybe two. I can see them being very slow and somber. I’m going to keep in C# for as long as I possibly can. I also think I’m going to cool it with the crazy odd time for these next sections. More villainy awaits!
Until next post,
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*Anchorage is about an hour away from where we live.
This talk is about theremins, one of my all time favorite instruments and one that I wish I could play. It’s like the Basque language for me – one that is like that girl in math class that you wish you had the guts to talk to but have never been able to approach. There are two reasons why I want to learn to play. The first reason is because it doesn’t require touch to play. The second is because it sounds super cool. There’s actually a third reason, as well. Science.
Here’s how it works (I’m quoting Melodyful.com):
“The theremin has an electromagnetic field between its two antennae, and for it to produce sound, a thereminist has to stand in between them and wave his hands in proximity to the antennae to interrupt the magnetic field. Due to this interruption, every time the thereminist waves his hands, a signal in the form of static waves is sent to the antennae, to produce sound.”
If you know me, you know that science is my fourth great love (behind my husband, music, and writing). I’m usually partial to astronomy, but theremins blend science and music, plus they sound awesome. What’s not to love?
Here’s a bit more about it from the same source:
“The theremin was invented by a Russian physicist named Lev Sergeyevich Termen in 1920, which was patented in the United States of America in 1928. This instrument was named after the westernized version of his name which is Léon Theremin.”
I love to watch theremin videos on YouTube, much like the theremin and voice version of “The Ecstasy of Gold” above. I’m thankful for Mr. Termin for these pure and wholesome instruments. They soothe me. I’d love to learn to play the Queen of the Night aria
from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which is famous for its extra-high notes that sound like whistles. There’s a video of a live performance above. I think that would sound super cool on a theremin. I am envious of an instrument now because I have always wanted to hit the highest note (an F) with my voice. The highest I’ve ever gone was SO CLOSE and I almost broke my vocal cords. Now, how do I get my hands on one? I have no earthly idea. Perhaps I can make one with my husband.
Until then, I need to learn it on Berri and Stephen and a loop pedal. I think that would be a gorgeous song to play with or without a theremin. I also need to learn how to loop. New goal…
Thank y’all for reading (and listening!) as always.
Hello, fine friends! I’m here today to talk about musical composition and how it affects my life. Before we begin, though, here are some tracks for your listening pleasure.
The first, “Your Mind is the Plane”, was recorded in my dorm room with Stephen, my concert uke.
The second, “Five”, was recorded with my beautiful baritone uke, Berri, whose name is a Basque language pun.
The third was recorded on piano in my favorite environment ever, a three story concrete atrium. This is a cover of Civil Twilight’s “Letters from the Sky”. Here they are.
It took awhile to pick which songs to share, but these are some of my all time favorites. “Five” is a nod to my husband. It’s one of his favorite songs of mine. Places, my eighth album, is about us.
Each of these songs represents a different musical language for me. Piano is my first instrumental “language”. It came almost as naturally as singing, and while it took years to get where I am, it flows more easily.
Learning Stephen took far longer, partially because I had to learn uke upside down due to a stroke I had when I was a baby. After a long while, it finally clicked and I was jamming hard the point that my thumbs were bleeding at times.
I picked Berri up in Rexburg, and she was probably the easiest to learn due to my time with Stephen. I’m still learning all three, and it’s frustrating because I have very limited use of my left hand, but I am getting there.
The coolest part about composing and performing for long periods of time is that the songs evolve and sometimes hop from instrument to instrument. Another favorite of mine, “My Island”, started like this:
and is currently sounding something like this:
I also have a bass, but I haven’t done much work with her yet. I primarily sing with my instruments and I want to learn to sing with her, too, but I’m not the best at practicing regularly. I plan on moving her downstairs close to my writing spot.
Music is one of the best forms of worship I have. I feel close to the spiritual when everything connects, and it’s a glorious time. I think things started to connect when I started to know my songs forward and backward and began to record these semi spontaneous moments where I just sat down and captured things perfectly in one take. “Letters from the Sky” is one such example. They don’t happen often, but when they do, they are pure magic. I can’t force music, ever.
My best albums take shape late at night and are powered by Mountain Dew. Mago, Primrose Path, and stay are great examples. I don’t think I’ve talked about stay yet. Anyway, I wish I had a piano here, but Stephen, Berri, and Athena (the bass) are a great crew to have. I need Dew, stat!
I hope you enjoyed this musical extravaganza!
Until next post,
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