Monday, June 21, 2010

Inside the Abby....

Sitting a half mile off the coast of Normandy, France, the Abby at Mount St. Michel was built over 1,000 years ago.  In 1998 I drove from Paris to Normandy and the small town of Vire to visit my friend Pascal Moru. While I was there Pascal suggested I visit Mt. St. Michel and I spent a day there in late November. Tourist season had past and the town and Abby were mostly empty.  Sitting in the large empty stone hall in the Abby I imagined how wonderful it would be to have a guitar and a small recorder there and to produce something like a cross between a John Fahey record and one of Paul Horn's Inside... albums.

When I came home I recorded this piece on a Martin custom shop 12-string 12-fret slotted headstock dreadnought with ebony fingerboard and rosewood bridge, bone nut, three piece flamed maple back and spruce top using a Neumann U87 studio microphone onto a 2-inch open reel Studer deck.

* Photograph by Australian photographer Fabian Foo

There will be a slight delay....

The CD version of Many Bright Things' Many Bright Friends album has a bonus track, an acoustic guitar played through a delay and with a second guitar overdubbed, also acoustic, played with an E-bow. the E-bow is meant for use on electric guitars, and on an acoustic produced a sort of backwards flute sound that I rather like.  On the CD this is titled "There Will Be a Slight Delay."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Play it LOUD....

Ordinarily I do not record wild thrashing electric guitar noise.  This is an exception. I'm on guitar, Larry is on the Fender 6 string bass and Seth from New York on drums.

The Improvisational Ensemble....

I know how much fun it would be if I could find 5-10 musicians who would agree to play every month and a half or so in an improvisational context.  The problem, however, is that I may be the only one who does know.

My goal is to form an improvisational ensemble, I call it M.I.M.E. -- the Midwest Improvisational Music Ensemble -- I like the idea of a LOUD mime.  The music I am posting on this blog is not so much examples of what it would sound like, bit examples of what it could sound like. 

In 1997 on a sunny Sunday afternoon, a dozen or so musicians gathered at a small studio at the edge of a forest out near the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  We played, without any planning or rehearsal, for about five hours. At then end the engineer did a quick mix of the second piece we played and, when we stood there in a small control room and listened, we were amazed.

Eventually I mixed a series of excerpts from that session, everything live to tape, no overdubs, and assembled a record we called In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey.  That first thing we heard, later titled "I Am Aware of My Heart," is streaming below, and I use it just as an example of what is possible. 

We play, we record it, we search the performance for sections that are interesting, we edit these into final pieces, we assemble an album, press a small number of vinyl copies and a small number of CDs and watch as it slowly works it's way into the world. 

In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey was released in a LP pressing of 450 copies and sold out very quickly. A CD pressing of 1000 copies also sold out eventually.  While these are minuscule numbers, the record was heard around the world by people who like that kid of adventurous music and reviewed in all sorts of places, including the All Music Guide where it's listed as an "album pick":

Essentially, In the Summer of the Mushroom Honey is the result of an in-the-studio jam session between members of Faraday Cage, Tombstone Valentine, Many Bright Things and Twin Planet, all psychedelic rock bands from the U.S. Midwest. These improvisations are dominated by Richelle Toombs' bewitching voice. On "I Am Aware of My Heart," her voice has been multiplied, beautifully clouding the meaning of what she says. This is mostly guitar (acoustic or electric) and percussion-driven music; keyboards are few and discreet. "Clouds on Sunday" is a nice trio of acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and violin. Two feedbacking guitars are the essence of "Thank You, Mr. Bishop!"  "Sweet Water" brings back Toombs' vocals. This CD release includes a longer version of "Deep Beneath the Water" and extra material such as the 20-minute warm-up number "Opening Impressions of the Middle East." This album should be considered by any serious or casual psychedelic rock/space rock fan: the improvising is inspired, rich, and sustained. Strongly recommended. - Fran├žois Couture (AMG)

Any interested musicians are welcome to contact me at any time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Story of the Bean and the Beautiful Red Witch....

[My FaceBook friend Christie Bell is, among other things, an artist who, in her photography, loves to work with costumes and found objects.  A while back she posted that she had come across a large wire metal cage and planned to use it in some photographs.  Christie and I both have a good friend named Jennifer and Jennifer has a lovely daughter named Sabina who I have been known to refer to as "The Bean."  Christie just posted a series of photographs she shot of Jennifer and Sabina and, as I looked at them, they seemed to suggest a fairytale that, before I knew it, I was writing down, as I heard it in my ear, as I looked through the photos.] 

 The Story of the Bean and the Beautiful Red Witch

In a big house at the edge of the forest lived a pretty little girl the people called The Bean.  Sometimes, at night, she heard sounds from the forest coming through her window.  Sometimes it sounded like whispers. Sometimes it sounded like laughter. Sometimes it sounded like music. And sometimes it sounded like flowers.

The people who lived in The Village told The Bean to stay out of the forest.

The people in The Village told The Bean that, in the forest, there lived the Beautiful Red Witch.

Sometimes at night, when the wind was blowing from the forest into The Village, people said they could hear the Beautiful Red Witch whispering, calling their children to come to the forest.

The people in The Village said that the Beautiful Red Witch waited in the forest for little girls, little girls just like The Bean.

If they were not careful, little girls would be drawn by the sound of the whispers, the sound of laughing, the sound of music, and the sound of flowers and walk off the path that ran around the edge of the forest, and walk into the forest.

There, the Beautiful Red Witch was waiting.

Little girls, just like The Bean, would not see the Beautiful Red Witch at first.  They would be drawn by the sounds – whispers, laughing, music, flowers – and before they knew it… they were deep into the forest. And the Beautiful Red Witch would suddenly appear.

The Beautiful Red Witch would grab the little girls and cast a spell that would turn the little girls, just like The Bean, into birds.

The Beautiful Red Witch would put the birds, which were, until very recently, little girls, just like The Bean, into cages where they would whisper, and sing their songs that sometimes sounded like laughter (and sometimes sounded like flowers) and sometimes, when the wind was right, the sounds would drift from the forest, to the village and, well, you know the rest.

And so it happened that, very early one morning as The Bean was asleep she woke up to the sounds of flowers and music and left her house and walked to the edge of the forest and, before you could say “Yessir, that’s my baby”, The Bean had walked into the forest as the first light of the day barely managed to sneak into the edges of the green.

At first, The Bean did not notice the Beautiful Red Witch as she silently came up to her.

But then… suddenly… The Bean saw the Beautiful Red Witch!

The Beautiful Red Witch was surprised because The Bean did not cry out.  The Bean stood very still and looked at the Beautiful Red Witch.

“It’s true,” said The Bean, “you are beautiful.”

The Beautiful Red Witch was again surprised (making twice in one day after one hundred and seventeen years of no surprises at all).  In her hundreds of years living in the forest and turning wandering children into birds the Beautiful Red Witch had never been told such a thing.

Not ever.

“Ooooo!" said The Bean. “Is that the cage you will put me in?”

“Yes.” Said the Beautiful Red Witch with her beautiful voice.

Before the Beautiful Red Witch could speak again, The Bean stepped inside the cage.

“Wow!”said The Bean.  “It is amazing in here!”

Again, the Beautiful Red Witch had no reply.  Finally, she asked The Bean, “Really?”

“Oh yes!” said The Bean. “It’s wonderful!  Have you never been inside?”

 “Well…” said the Beautiful But Quite Confused Red Witch, “…actually, no.”

“Here…” said The Bean, stepping out of the cage.  “You simply MUST try it.”

The next day the people in the village came to the forest and were amazed by what they saw.

There, in the center of the clearing by the road that runs round the forest, sat a large cage, and inside the cage sat the most beautiful red bird they had ever seen, whispering, laughing, and singing its song that sounded like flowers.

The End

* Here's a link to a download for the song "The Silver Witch" which makes for a lovely accompaniment to the story.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Other Variations....

This is from sometime in the late 1980s, early 1990s.  Two friends from graduate school had come for the weekend and, after a bottle of brandy and a case of beer had vanished, I set up a microphone, got my wee little Casio keyboard that had a primitive sampler, a Travis Bean electric guitar and a 4-track recorder and said, "It's 4 in the morning, let's make something."

Jenny Nelson has been graduate faculty at Ohio University since the early 1980s.  Dave Sholle is now a filmmaker and Associate Professor at Miami University at Oxford Ohio. But back then they were just some drunken collaborators in the creation of something spontaneous. 

As I recall, I first set up a microphone and recorded my conversation with Jenny.  Then I used the Casio to grab a sample from something we were listening to, I've long forgotten what.  Then Dave and I plugged in some guitars and added some tracks. 

It is called "Late One Evening" and there's something about it I really love, but I am more than willing to accept that maybe you had to be there.  In the end... what is blogging if not self indulgent?

More Guitar Variations....

Still clearing and converting files; this comes from a day I spent in the Fun House Studios with Cincinnati bassist, Ron Esposito. It is the same session that produced our version of "Desolation Row".  Ron plays his stand up acoustic bass and I'm playing a classical guitar in Open C tuning (CGCGCE).  When I mixed it I added the delay and I like the way it sounds. Looking for a title, I just reached out my hand and put my finger on a CD at random. "Friends" it is.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guitar Variations....

This was recorded sometime five or six years ago on a small portable four track with my 1967 Guild Starfire II guitar on all tracks.  It is played in an Open C tuning (CGCGCE) and one in a series of C Variations.

I was converting some old WAV files to mp3s and found this and liked it enough to share it. I've posted a bunch of music at a site called Reverbnation. I hope you'll click the link and visit it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Now there's an idea....

I've had discussion with people who believe that the US was established as a "Christian nation" even though, if that were true, a reasonable person might expect to find some mention of Jesus Christ in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.

But more disturbing are the people who claim that we would be better off if we established the Ten Commandments as the basis for laws in the United States.

Somewhat hypocritically, these are usually the same people who also worship the "original intent" of the framers and become apoplectic at things like federal civil rights legislation.

But, if you find yourself in a discussion with someone who tells you the Ten Commandments ought be posted in every courthouse in the land, ask them this:

How is it possible to incorporate the 1st Commandment - “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me" - into actual state and federal law and not establish the United States as a theocracy?

The problem doesn't stop there. From Exodus 20:1-17, read 'em and weep:

You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

What I am asking about here is not whether these represent good advice on the whole. I mean, yes, you're better off if you don't covet, if you don't commit adultery, if you do honor your mother and father and so on. But what these people are talking about is to establish these commandments as LAWS, as offenses you can be arrested for, charged with, tried on, and sentenced to prison for.

How would the first commandment work? Wouldn't every Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Scientologist, Breatharian, immediately be subject to arrest?

A friend's 11 year old daughter is really into dolphins and has a really beautiful carving of one. Doesn't the second commandment send her off to juvenile hall?

Do Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Bill Clinton, etc., all actually get arrested and tried in a courtroom on the charge of adultery?

Who wins the clash between the 9th commandment and the 1st amendment?

I mean, Jesu.... oops.