Music Blog

Let the Water Hold Me Down

As David Byrne once said, “Well… how did I get here?” This has been the most difficult Song-A-Day I’ve gone through in many respects, and almost every day was a fight of some kind. But apparently I was so busy looking at my feet trying not to trip that by the time I looked up,…

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Caconym

It’s been a tradition for Song-A-Day participants to hold some sort of get-together wrap party. In recent years, this became a virtual event because more and more participants weren’t in the San Francisco / Oakland area. Typically, this happens a week or two into March, but this year it was held earlier today. On the…

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Baryphonic

Sometimes writing a song like 509 can cause incredible pressure or an unrealistic expectation that because I did that yesterday, I should be able to do it again today. Happily, I actually found it to be a relief. There are only two days left in the month, I’ve written a couple of really solid songs,…

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509

I’m really torn about what to say about this one. It’s difficult to discuss the writing process for it without getting into what I was writing about. And what I was writing about might change how people feel about the song, despite the fact that the song definitely went way beyond what I had originally…

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Molten Salt Reactor

We’re on the home stretch now, and sort of in a groove – that part of the marathon where you know you’re going to finish. It’s not any easier, but mentally, there are only a couple more hills to climb, a couple more turns to make, and then you can stop running, at least for…

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Jigsawz

Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now – this is an experiment. It was partially successful, and it was interesting, and it’s another song posted, so we’ll call it a win. Most soft synths first load with a default patch. Sometimes this is a nicely programmed sound, but in the case of…

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Constructive Interference

The final push. Six songs left. Will it be uphill or downhill? If today’s track is any indication, maybe neither. The production break doing the covers was a nice mini-reset, and I’m feeling halfway between “write things for me to listen to” and the experimental day trips that started a couple of days ago. Constructive…

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Last Sad Day / Henry James

If you’ve read any of my past-year accounts, you may remember that the 22nd is Cover Day. I’ve done a few, with mixed results, at least for my own satisfaction. I’m of a mixed mind when it comes to this tradition – on the one hand, I think it’s a huge compliment to have someone…

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So Are the Grains of Our Lives

Well, here we are at the end of week three. It’s been a somewhat frustrating month so far, with me wishing that I had a few more songs in the can, but I’m not unhappy with my overall output. I am, however, feeling like I may have reached the end of the ambient arc, or…

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The Wire Heart

An area of sound that I’ve been really enjoying for several years now are “broken” things. Normally, I do this with distortion or granular synthesis, or sometimes by adding randomness to some element of a sound. A few years ago, I bought an expansion pack called “Beautifully Broken” and many of those sounds capture exactly…

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Big Bend

Ugh. Middle of week three and I’m simultaneously feeling like I’m struggling to find ideas and not having enough time to do the ideas that pop into my head. Neither of those things is true, and I know that, which makes it worse. So am I just being lazy? What’s the hang-up? I don’t know….

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Dogmatic Impressionism

As is often the case, this piece started off with that very first bell sound and I started building to it. As with the Output plugins mentioned yesterday, the Cycles library from Slate + Ash has become a dark-horse favorite for me – a pleasant surprise because my initial reaction to it was more in…

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Hadal Zone

Sitting down to write, I don’t think I was intending on a return to the deep space music / dark ambient genre, but here we are. I tried a slightly different approach this time, going with a slower tempo and then using a super sparse drum pattern, but running it through several effects. The opening…

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Slow Melt

Since I clearly have not had enough minimalist ambientish tracks this month, here’s another. Actually, this track sounds very much like it could have come directly from my 2017 Song-A-Day participation. That’s not a bad thing – I had been planning to create a “space music” album out of several tracks from that year before…

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Ogdoads

Another journey through randomly selected sounds. Mostly. As I did yesterday, most of the sounds in this track were selected by randomly scrolling through Omnisphere. This time, however, I was a bit more willing to toss sounds if they didn’t grab me. My first stop was the bouncing synth sound that kicks off the track….

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Stalking the Aleatoric Whales

Yesterday I wrote about randomization and chance as compositional tools, and they show up again today, but in a very different way. And with a very different result. I was in a different mood today. Darker. Sadder. As gravid and grey as the sky. As has become usual, I had no ideas as I sat…

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Dagian

Pastiche. Nearly every time I’ve heard that word used in conversation or read it in an article, it’s used at least partially as a pejorative. It’s a French word, which came from the Italian pasticcio, which came from the Latin pasta. Which means “paste.” (Which makes the Italian pasta interesting, because the dough for pasta…

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Locus Alienus

Occasionally during Song-A-Day, someone will throw out a challenge of some sort. The standing one is that February 22 is always cover day, where we’re challenged to cover one of the other songs that have been posted during the month. The most direct challenge I’ve received was from Derek Greenberg who challenged everyone during the…

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Kef

As you listen to this track, you’re hearing what giving up sounds like. Not in a bad way, I suppose, but I’ve decided that I’m just stressing myself out trying to force “songs” this month. Both A Tiny Thing and Pigeonhole were surprise appearances, more so than my normal level of surprise when an idea…

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Pigeonhole

Ok, here we go, another song with vocals. I had been in the studio for only a short time when, for some inexplicable reason, I started singing the old “The bear went over the mountain” song from my childhood. That started morphing in my head and I fired up the text editor. I think I…

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Electric Swamp

Well, I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about impaired writing. It’s nothing new: musicians have been writing while under the influence of something for thousands of years. I’ve certainly written a few things while having a beer or something a bit stronger, but I’m not normally in a state…

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The Stinking Rose Waltz

Brian Eno is apparently my spirit animal this month. He has, of course, been a huge influence on my ambient compositions, but he has also been a source of inspiration and motivation in my musical and creative world in a much more general way. In 1975, Eno teamed up with Peter Schmidt and created a…

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Mushroom Tea

In stark contrast to yesterday’s celebration of excess, today’s track is a good example of me knowing when to say “when.” It’s a simple track, focused more on emotion and vibe than melody or technical production. It’s muzak of a sort, I suppose, but still a style I enjoy writing and listening to. Things started…

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A Completely Successful Exercise in Planning and Self-Restraint

Sometimes my songs are mercurial and hard to pin down, even to me. Other times, I think I’m being more cagey and subtle than I actually am. And then there are times like this. The title of this song is about as plain as it gets, and completely accurate. This is a “Truth in Advertising”…

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A Tiny Thing

Clearly, my mood had shifted from yesterday’s production. Despite setting the project tempo at 132, thinking maybe I had another upbeat song in me, my initial exploration of sounds and drums had me quickly dropping into half-time mode. This is one of those weird times where I’ll open a project later and see that the…

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Nothing in the Universe

Well, isn’t this a surprise‽ Another day of intense procrastination, but as I sat down in front of the computer and put my hands on the synth, ready to delve further into the ambient world, the first line of the song popped into my head, mostly talking to myself. But all of a sudden the…

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A Star Never Setting

Today’s track is much more in line with what I thought I was going to write yesterday. It combines some of my favorite things: granular synthesis, treated pianos, and long tape-style delays. Obviously, this one is heavily inspired by Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, almost getting into pastiche territory. Not that that’s inherently a bad…

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Dreams of a Distant Shore

While yesterday’s full-on song was a bit of a surprise for me, with lyrics and theme coming together rather quickly, today was closer to what I was expecting to run up against. I went into the studio around 8 or 9pm, but didn’t actually start writing anything until closer to 11. This was less about…

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Noise In the Signal

As with previous years, don’t expect this post, or any of the ones that follow for the rest of the month, to deal with what the song is about. That’s up to you to decide. In many cases, even what I think they’re about changes over time. That said, this song does an excellent job…

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Art in the OutrAGE

Well, it’s February again, and that means Song-A-Day. After 2020’s sadly abbreviated participation, I’m not sure how things will go this year. On the one hand, I may have a large backlog of music in me, and there is certainly no topical shortage after the dumpster-fire of a year we’ve had. I’ve become far less…

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Let’s Shoot the Moon

In stark contrast to the chaos swirling around me the previous day, this song was written in one of the most devastating silences imaginable: an empty house that’s empty because of a death. If you’ve had the sad occasion to be involved in the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one, you know…

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Václava

I’m not entirely sure how to approach entries for 2020. With only two songs written for Song-A-Day, and the circumstances surrounding the reasons why, it seems impossible to take my normal approach of not discussing meaning or direct inspiration. In fact, it might be wrong to do so this time around. What you’re reading is…

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Love and Life Are Deep

I can’t overstate how influential Neil Peart has been on my life. He and his two cronies were with me for hours and hours of D&D, thousands of bus rides and car trips, hundreds of notebook doodles, and many deep discussions of life, politics, philosophy, religion, and what it means to be a free and…

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The End of the Beginning

Since mid-2017, I have been working to build my creative skills into a self-sustaining, and ultimately profitable, business. I spent a lot of that initial time refreshing my knowledge of how to be self-employed. Regulations, taxes, legal structure, manufacturing costs, global distribution options, royalties, streaming, performing rights organizations, licensing opportunities, and a gazillion other things…

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Recuperation and Reflection

Another Song-A-Day challenge comes to a close, and again, it was a rewarding experience. I managed to post all 28 tracks, including two that were done on the road. The last few days were even more of a challenge as the effects of not getting enough sleep and walking dogs in Wisconsin-winter temperatures ganged up…

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I’m Back (And I’m Backin’ It Up!)

In the summer of 1978, I was eleven years old. One of my most vivid memories of that time was the annual trip to Six Flags amusement park. I don’t remember much of the day, but there’s one indelible moment that would impact me for the rest of my life. It has nothing to do…

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Nubivagant

Over the course of the day, several ideas came and went for my penultimate track of the month. I get these little snippets of melody all the time, most of them are enjoyed for a few moments and then lost to the dark corners of my memory. Occasionally they resurface, but most of the time,…

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Troll (Jonathan Aronson Cover)

Every year, February 22 is designated as “Cover Day.” People choose one of the other participant’s tracks to cover. In 2016, I didn’t know about Cover Day until it showed up, and was too timid to make the attempt. In 2017, I covered a song by Chris Greacen (the instigator of all this madness) and…

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What If Everything You Know Is Wrong

Another journey through the valley of production hell. I started late on this one, but couldn’t put it away, and ended up not only violating my 2:00 AM stop time rule (I think I finished around 3:00), but calling a mulligan the next morning. The opening pad sound got looped while I wrote the lyrics,…

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Not a Minute to Spare

Back to the normal studio, huzzah! But also a travel day. I’m normally a bit drained mentally when I get home. Then there are all of the small things that follow a trip: unpack, empty the dishwasher, decide if you actually need to eat or if that airport dinner in St. Louis is going to…

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He’s So Hot Right Now

Another day with the mobile rig, but I was feeling a little more confident with the setup, and had a more time than the night before. As a result, I ended up experimenting a bit with Reason’s granular synthesis module. They’ve added a decent amount of functionality to the most recent upgrade. I don’t know…

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What Is This, a Keyboard for Ants?

It is amazing how reliant one can become on a normal working environment, certain tools, and software setup. I’m on a quick trip to attend a wedding this weekend, and brought a mini-rig with me to attempt road composition. My workstation consists of my normal DAW, Digital Performer, running on a MacBook pro and using…

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Trapped in the Ice

Another night of intense procrastination and finding other things to do. Watched some TV. Looked for a snack. Made a drink. Made another drink. Went into the studio. Left the studio. Went back into the studio. One thing that differed this time is that I didn’t start off listening to sounds for inspiration. I just…

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Grey Boats

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.Proverbs 16:18 Ok, that’s an overdramatic and exaggerated account of yesterday, but it makes for a good opening, doesn’t it? While writing my entry for I Am Not Here, I realized that it was already the 19th! I’ve had a few days this month where…

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I Am Not Here

I started yesterday’s entry discussing how the song I had been working on felt rushed and would benefit from some finesse instead of being the blunt instrument it was becoming. That turned out to be correct, though it happened in a way that I didn’t really expect. Going into the studio, I had intended to…

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A Sad Jingle

For the last few years, I’ve tried to employ a “no negative posts” rule for my conduct on social media. For the most part, I’ve been successful, though the snark does slip through from time to time. It’s often a knee-jerk response to something, or I thought of something funny that lets my inner cynic…

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Snow Globe

We had a rare day where it snowed continuously from sunup to sundown. It was a lazy Sunday, and Mary and I enjoyed watching the snowfall through the front windows while drinking coffee, reading, and chatting. Periodically, the wind would kick up and snow would blow in multiple directions simultaneously. At one point, Mary said,…

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Paging Mr. Greenberg

One of the most amazing things about Song-A-Day is the overwhelming volume and quality of the music, with the equivalent of a full album posted almost every single day. The styles vary wildly, and even if it’s not a style you enjoy, there’s always something to enjoy or learn. It’s the learning that’s been the…

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Deferential Drift

The beginning of week three, and the first time this month that I’ve actually hit a wall. I’ve thought I was about to on a couple of occasions, but something always showed up when I got into the studio. For this track, though, I was in rapid-fire, ADD noodle mode for about an hour. My…

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I Find the Strength

This turned into an accidental love song. Mary and I spontaneously decided to go out for Valentines Day and had a lovely evening. She’d had a long week of business travel, so after she headed to bed, I headed to the studio, getting a very late start. Only about two hours for songwriting, and this…

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The Old Zerp and Flerp

It’s tempting to call this a “contractual obligation” track. The evening started with an attempt at a much simpler, downtempo electronic piece. I’ve been fascinated with this skydiving video’s soundtrack by Sidewalks and Skeletons, and wanted to learn more about how I might go about producing something similar. Unfortunately, many times when I’m trying to…

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Cask

Snippet. Sketch. Draft. Before I started analyzing some of my favorite film soundtracks from recent years, I would have immediately categorized Cask as one of those things. Now, I hear this as a cue for a film score. Friends have often characterized my music as being visual and encouraged me to try to get into…

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Toys in the Attic

I was on the phone, catching up with a friend, and we talked a lot longer than either of us expected. When we finally hung up, it was 10:15 pm. Only 1 hour and 45 minutes for Song-A-Day, because I was determined to go to bed by midnight. There were no latent song ideas or…

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Whatever You Pour, I’ll Drink

This song started as a joke. Mary was making herself an after-dinner drink. “Can I make something for you?” “Sure!” “What would you like?” “Whatever you’re pouring, I’m drinking.” I then commented that that could be tonight’s song. We both laughed that it would be a good country song title, and I flirted with the…

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Piece by Piece

Is there something more opposite than 180 degrees? Could we maybe add a fourth dimension? Because that’s what happened with this song. I had started writing a bog-standard 80s synth-pop song. I had a drum pattern going, worked out the bass line, and was writing the first verse when Piece by Piece popped into my…

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Butter and Blackberry Jam

Well, hello, what’s this? Certainly not the downer piece I was expecting to write today. Sitting down to the keyboard, I loaded up a lovely Chapman Stick sample, and that opening riff is the first thing that came out of my hands.

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The Music I Want You to Hear

I don’t know if this is the same song I started out writing. The words are all there, but somewhere between writing them, testing a web page, walking the dogs, and so on, I lost the melody that I’d originally had. Maybe. This could be it. It works in any case. I do have this…

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Drinking It Down

Sometimes you just have to walk away from something that’s not working and come back at it with a fresh mind. For all the trouble I had with this one yesterday, the writing process clicked into place fairly quickly for me today. I gutted the initial chord progression and got rid of about 75% of…

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Divulsion

The first instrumental track of the month, and certainly not the last. I’m unofficially trying to write a lot more vocal songs this month. I had a lyrical snippet show up while taking a shower , but it continued to elude me for most of the day. Procrastination was hitting me hard. I ended up…

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I Don’t Think That Was Me

Another song that started with a sound. The main metallic piano riff showed up while noodling with different sounds and I managed to overcome the inertia of noodling to actually hit record. That’s often the hardest part of any writing project: knowing when to just get to it. I looped 8 bars of the main…

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Look Away from the Water

Whenever I listen to music, I frequently find myself trying to figure out what the key little thing is that inspired it. Sometimes it’s a lyric, sometimes it’s a musical hook, sometimes it’s just the beat, but you can often pick out that one cool thing that led to the rest of it. If I…

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There’s No Time to Rest

I spent much of the day recreating project templates and reinstalling plugins and patch libraries. Part of this was procrastination, but mostly it was to overcome the frustration I get when technology gets in my way. As I installed the various libraries, I randomly selected the piano patch you hear in this piece.

  1. 42403 Ray Toler 4:34
While none have been formally claimed, nearly all of them are considered…

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I Made a Mistake

Day two. Tuesday. I had received some positive reinforcement for the previous day’s song, and was eager to get through the workday to get home and write something new. I’d caught the bug. In 2016, I was still writing my lyrics out long-hand, so there are cross-outs, things I abandoned, verses out of order, and…

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Watching the World (Tiny Little Window)

Ah, the first track in a scary challenge. Write a song, record it, post it on a publicly available website. Between the time you get home from work and the time you go to bed. With minimal ideas or sketches in mind. How would you respond? If you were me, you’d come home, sit on…

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A Song A Day

My dear friend Artemis has encouraged me to take part in Song-A-Day 2016. The goal: write a piece of music every day for the entire month of February. Or, more accurately, write, record, and post 29 pieces of music. I’m looking forward to the challenge and working to put a bit more discipline and routine into…

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