Shinkyoku Moratorium, Eigoban

Last year, I questioned whether a number of covers I planned would make a congruous album. Well, I went ahead and recorded a few of them, and I discovered they indeed sounded all right.
Now that I’m done with the Japanese cover album, I’m going ahead with the English language cover album. Here’s the track list (this information was previously posted, crossed-out tracks are done):

  1. Duran Duran’s "Planet Earth" straight-forward with lyrics in Japanese
  2. Bruce Robison’s "Wrapped" in the style of U2’s "Stories for Boys"
  3. Gabby Pahinui’s "Moonlight Lady" in the style of a shoegazer band
  4. Yvonne Elliman’s "Hello Stranger" as played on a toy keyboard.
  5. Linda Ronstadt’s "Hurts So Bad" in the style of Garbage.
  6. Janet Jackson’s "Miss You Much" in the style of Alice in Chains
  7. The System’s "Don’t Disturb This Groove" in the style of Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly.
  8. Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" performed with a string quartet
  9. Neutral Milk Hotel’s "The Fool" as an a capella piece.
  10. Roberta Flack’s "The Closer I Get to You" in the style of Explosions in the Sky and mono.
  11. Robin Holcomb’s "So Straight and Slow", straight-forward

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Retiring … the Spreadsheet!

Back in 2007, I introduced the Spreadsheet. It was my methodical way of getting down first draft vocals for Eponymous 4 songs. Up to that point, I had a 66 instrumental tracks and no vocals. That’s a lot of songs.
So I did what any self-respecting analytical person would do and prioritized the songs by range of difficulty. I thought I would be tackling the easiest songs first, but on a whim, I went straight for the hardest. When I managed to get through them, I got a boost of encouragement.
Over the course of the year, I managed to whittle down the number of unfinished tracks to two, both of them covers. That’s when the inertia hit. I had laid down initial tracks for my own material (many of the performances requiring more takes later), and I didn’t have much onus to work my way through someone else’s work.
So for the longest time, the Spreadsheet was 98 percent finished.
Today, I can report that it is 100% finished.

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Starting to Remember

I didn’t mention it before till now because I didn’t want to jinx my progress. Now that it’s pretty much done — save for edits and rewrites — I can now make the announcement.
I finished a second novel.
I’m as surprised as your are. I considered myself done with fiction writing after I set up The Courtship of Gary Huang on Lulu. There’s still a lot work to be done with Eponymous 4, and I didn’t want to be torn between two creative urges.
But then I showed a dormant revision I started back in 2004 to a couple of friends, and they were eager to know how the story turned out. So I decided just to chip away at it slowly, not to consider it some kind of contest. The further the story got, the more encouragement I received, so I found myself practically sprinting to the finish in the last few weeks (last few days in particular.)
Of course, what’s done is a first draft. Now I have to go back and rewrite the thing. (This revision is the fourth attempt at tackling this story. The previous versions didn’t capture the tone I wanted.)
Perhaps most important is the how the novel turned out to be a refuge from Eponymous 4. I haven’t been writing anything new for Eponymous 4 because I have so much unfinished, and at this point, it’s become more about refinement and editing than creation. I also have to confess I’m kind of blocked music-wise, and I want the next album to be incredibly ambitious. I don’t think I’ll really be ready to start writing anything for Eponymous 4 till 2010.
At the same time, I didn’t want to disengage. I wanted to be working on something, and the feedback I got from the novel seemed like a good channel to which to direct that energy.
I’ve also been sitting on this particular story for more than decade, and at some point, it had to be set. The main character, Crux, has been stirring around in my head since the early ’90s, so it’s kind of nice finally to have a complete story of his down on magnetic bits. (And soon, paper.)
I even tried to start a second Crux novel before the first one was finished as a way to participate in NaNoWriMo. I got about seven chapters done before I realized that story also could not be squeezed into a 30-day time-frame. I’ve started revising that story as well.
I have vacation time coming up in July, which I’ve intended to devote to recording. I think I’ll focus on fiction for the time being so that I don’t prematurely burn myself out before the next marathon of sessions.
Besides, I have to justify my use of QuarkXpress.
By the way, I’m calling the book Starting to Remember, and I confess it’s a bit of a reference to the Madonna song "Something to Remember". I’ve been trying to find a title for this thing for a long time, and once Starting to Remember grabbed me, it made the work all that much easier.

Are you inspired?

Derek Sivers re-posted a video from the TED conference by Elizabeth Gilbert about creative genius. In the video, she describes how the idea of "genius" went from being an external source of creativity to an internal one.
She recounts an anecdote Tom Waits told her during an interview. He felt the ideas of a song coming to him, but he was in the middle of traffic. So he said out loud to nothing in particular, "Do you mind? Can’t you see I’m driving?"
I left a comment on Sivers’ site, but I feel the need to repost my thoughts here. (Looks like the comment got deleted. Not sure why. Guess I was too pompous for Sivers’ taste.)
Back in high school, I read the autobiography Music by Philip Glass, and in it, Glass says he only composes in the morning. He never composes after lunch, instead tending to business affairs in the afternoon. Glass says an idea never comes to him outside the time he’s composing.
I pretty much adopted that working method the moment I read it. One time, I was trying to get an idea down on paper, and my dad interrupted me, insisting that I watch some thing or other on the TV. After I watched whatever the hell it was he wanted, I tried to go back to work, but the idea was lost. So I flung my notebook in the air, which startled him. In my teenage brattiness, I pretty much blamed him for making me lose an idea.
I had that memory in mind when I read about Glass’ working method.

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MCMLXXX a.D., or Shinkyoku Moratorium, Eigoban

A while back, I made a series of posts on Twitter describing ways I would cover some songs. Let me list them here:

  • Bruce Robison’s "Wrapped" in the style of U2’s "Stories for Boys"
  • Duran Duran’s "Planet Earth" straight-forward with lyrics in Japanese
  • Janet Jackson’s "Miss You Much" in the style of Alice in Chains
  • Linda Ronstadt’s "Hurts So Bad" in the style of Garbage.
  • Marilyn Manson’s "Tourniquet" in the style of Enya. (Actually, I ended up covering Neutral Milk Hotel’s "The Fool" as an a capella piece.)
  • Roberta Flack’s "Closer I Get to You" in the style of Explosions in the Sky and mono.
  • The System’s "Don’t Disturb This Groove"in the style of Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly

As much as I’d like to think these interpretations are beginnings of a cover album, I don’t get much of a thematic thread from them. The source material is all over the place, and their planned interpretations are incongruous. It wouldn’t feel like an album to me.
Now there’s another wrinkle.

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Video killed the studio star

Huh. I never had much of an ambition to be a filmmaker. At most, I’d maybe want to write something for TV, but the whole idea of creating something to watch from the ground up? It doesn’t fascinate me as much as getting into the minutiae of a piece of music.
Music videos are a long way from a feature-length film, but two videos I made in the last couple of weeks have gotten me wanting to experiment with the medium further.
Hell, I’m already thinking of making a DVD album out of Original Confidence.
I’ve spent the last weeks experimenting with 2-D animation software, even though I haven’t drawn anything on paper since high school. And I also looked up what it takes to make greenscreen effects. I even caught myself looking up prices for camcorders. Yeah, that bad.
So I’m just going to jot down some of the ideas I have for future videos, since I seem to be heading down this path already.

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The cup runneth way, way over

Of all the software in my home studio, the one used the least is Sibelius. I have a bunch of old scores from my days as a would-be composer that I’d like to transcribe or re-transcribe, but I haven’t squeezed out that time yet.
So to justify the expense of having bought the software, I created scores for NaSoPiAlMo 2006. I originally recorded the MIDI playback of those pieces for the album, but now I’d like to record them live. I thought to myself, "Wouldn’t it be neat if I could work off of a score book, like my Beethoven and Bach pieces?"
Sibelius doesn’t do book formatting, but QuarkXpress does. So I exported my piano scores to EPS and fashioned a book out of it. Then I went to Lulu to see about printing it up. After poring over the help section of the site, I added a cover, title page and copyright page to the book. Then I loaded it up.
Huh. That was easy. What else can I get printed up?

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Shinkyoku moratorium, part the third, phase two

I usually declare a shinkyoku moratorium in the fall, as a way to curb the amount of music I produce in a single year. These moratoriums are usually broken the moment I start working on something new. Technically, I broke last year’s moratorium back in February, when I wrote a few measures of a new string quartet.
I haven’t worked on it since, and now that I’ve launched a label and a publishing company, I don’t think I’ll get back to it any time soon.
So I’m extending the shinkyoku moratorium from September 2007, or at least, I’m not considering it broken. Launching the label forces me to look seriously at the current state of my catalog, and adding to it just doesn’t seem appealing. Now that I have a means through which this music can be (somewhat) properly distributed, I need to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be.
That means recording and editing vocals, finalizing arrangements and closing outstanding bugs issues.

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Existential Eureka Moments in the Seismic Context Shift

From two messages posted by a friend of mine on Twitter, I posited that Existential Eureka Moments in the Seismic Context Shift would make a good fake title for a Guided By Voices album. I’ve since grown an attachment to the phrase and will use it on something for Eponymous 4 instead.
Is it hazardous to have a title before an actual idea?
From Acadia to Zenith, another title I’ve vowed to turn into an Eponymous 4 project, sounds great, but now I have to contemplate what kind of work would be suitable for it. Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the proverbial horse.
Existential Eureka Moments in the Seismic Context Shift almost sounds like a greatest hits collection, though.

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