Yearly Archives: 2005


I found this lyric in a paper journal I kept some years back. It doesn’t have a melody yet. It looks interesting. It’s my first attempt to incorporate Japanese into lyrics, in the same way Japanese artists incorporate English non-sequiters in their music.
All the feeling is gone
There’s no incentive
Another day and it’s done
Are you invested?
Not a care in the world
I do believe you
All the knowledge you know
It’s nothing useful
Who cares if I don’t agree?
I’m sure that you don’t
I don’t have much else to say
I have no reason to stay
What’s to stop the world from ending?
What’s to stop your life from beginning?
What’s to stop my eyes from seeing?
What’s to stop my heart from believing?
Who are you to say you want me?
Who are you to say you need me?
Who am I to question your judgment?
Who am I to make up excuses?

Known unknowns

So now that I’ve got Revulsion out of the way, I’m pretty much caught up with everything unfinished. Aside from an untapped archive of old and rather wonky songs, I’ve got nothing left to offer.
It’s both exciting and scary. I’m starting from scratch, which means I can go anywhere I wish. But I’m starting from scratch, and I don’t if I even have any ideas to fashion anymore.
So why not just jot down a bunch of random things to try? The overused term is brainstorm, I believe. I’ll try not to censor myself, a difficult task given my natural tendency to edit en route.

  • A classical album, in which I play the only four pieces I know how to play.
  • Instead of writing music first, write all the lyrics first. Because I procrastinate with lyrics way too much.
  • A heavy metal musical titled War.
  • An album of continuous music, or my own version of Sigur Rós’ Takk … or Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor.
  • A Japanese cover album titled Shinkyoku Moratorium.
  • Dig through the college composition pieces and see what’s salvagable.
  • Something dissonant.
  • Something live.
  • Something spoken.
  • Erotica.
  • What? Like gay pr0n?
  • Sexy music of some sort? That would be challenging.
  • Collaborative piece with davidnunez.
  • A weird country album with Jason Grote. in Seattle.
  • Lyrics in Japanese
  • Violin music or more string quartet stuff
  • Solo piano album
  • Write stuff for Dreama’s Too Cool for Our Shoes. If she will let me.
  • A capella album(?)(!)
  • 8-bit music
  • Tuneful techno
  • Mimic Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand album
  • No song more than a minute long (although Songs To Wear Pants To already does that.)
  • Game music for an imaginary game.
  • Space Monkeys, the Philip Glass performance art piece.
  • Shiina Ringo cover album
  • Urban music
  • Fuck the Postal Service. (Disclaimer: I like the Postal Service — I’m just wondering what the sound of fucking the Postal Service would be like.)
  • Duran Duran cover album
  • Variations on themes by Duran Duran
  • Duran Duran songs reimagined and recontextualized
  • No introspective songs!
  • Nothing slower than 120bps

I bet I’m going to look back on this list and throw much of it out. What would you make book on what remains?


November is National Novel Writing Month. And some hangers-on have dubbed it National Solo Album Month. I’m participating in neither.
Shinkyoku moratorium is still in effect, and I really don’t want to do any more recording until the current batch in progress gets a bit more finished. As for NaNoWriMo — I’ve got a lot of plot lines floating in my head but nothing clear enough to fashion into a narrative.
And honestly — I don’t want to shop around the only novel I’ve finished, when I can’t even demonstrate to myself I can finish a second one.
That doesn’t mean I’m not floating ideas in my head.

Continue reading »

Shinkyoku moratorium

That’s it. No more.
I am putting a moratorium on new songwriting from now till the end of the year.
I have recorded about 40 songs since the start of the year, and now they must be polished and fine-tuned. Some of them need to be finished.
If I write any more, I will be inundated, and things that are half-finished will remain as such.
No new writing will commence until after the start of the new year. More specifically, no new recording will be made until after the start of the new year.
Sketches are acceptable. (I wouldn’t want to get too neglectful.) But no new recordings.
None. Zip.
I’m actually starting to feel weighed down by the number of songs that need to be thoroughly mixed and edited before vocals can be laid down. I don’t want to add anything more to it.
So I am declaring a moratorium on new studio work.
What is up on is all that there will be for now.
End of line.

Update/Inventory III: The projects

I’ve already updated the song inventory, I may as well update the project inventory.
The list has been expanded to include projects already completed.

  • enigmatics
    A tribute to an artist of whom I’m not much of a fan.

    This one was done a long time ago.

  • Voodoo
    This was a working title of what eventually became Imprint.

    All that needs to happen now is fine tuning and vocals. The music and lyrics for these songs are pretty much set. I’m even getting used to the very non-sensical lyrics of “Choices”.

  • 「風の歌を聴け」
    I’m calling this my Wayne Horvitz rip-off EP. Three-fifths of it is already done, and I’ve got a good idea of the fourth song. The fifth is a complete blank. But I feel I’m close.

    In reality, this EP ended up ripping off Craig Armstrong more than Wayne Horvitz, but I like how all the songs are just off-kilter with each other and on the whole.

  • Shift Your Paradigm
    Seven sketches for this project have been sitting around, so I would like to try to finish it. It’ll be more introspective than Imprint but not as bugfuck crazy as 「風の歌を聴け」.

    This project will eventually become Restraint, after having gone through the working title Speechless. I’ll make the switch after I’ve written lyrics for the new songs I’ve finished. I’m not sure why I’m convinced the songs on this album work together. They’re all really different.

  • A Ghost in My Shadow
    The original project. Problem, though — I’ve been cannibalizing it. Four songs from it have already been reassigned to Imprint, and another two form the basis of 「風の歌を聴け」. So really, I’m not sure whether this project will exist by this time next year.

    I decided not to cannibalize this project, and in fact, reinstate the track listing from the original demo tape, A Loss for Words. That means the three songs that open Imprint also open A Ghost in My Shadow — in the same order.

  • Revulsion (formerly, Stylish Number Girl)
    I haven’t done much with this one, but then again, I haven’t been writing with a guitar. And that will be my gimmick for this project — to write with an instrument I’m not skilled at playing. I do have about six sketches, which is a lot by comparrison.

    I decided to scale down this project from a full album to an EP, and I concentrated on the sketches I already had. The results sound pretty good, even if I had to mimic the guitar parts on a keyboard.

  • 8.0s
    Ha! I keep thinking I’m joking about writing a full-on new wave project, but I’ve got a narrow window of opportunity here — the 80s are fashionable again, what with the Killers and Franz Ferdinand and the like. And honestly? I actually have songs written in the style, more closer to Duran Duran than anything. So this may still happen yet. But probably not in time before the Killers and Franz Ferdinand go out of style.

  • Chronology Protection Conjecture
    This idea so didn’t stick, I didn’t realize I had it till I read my archive. But one of my other hair-brained ideas was writing a song cycle about string theory. You know — The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene … Maybe.

    If I do anything with project it will be along the lines of The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.

  • Shinkyoku Moratorium
    This entry mentioned covers I wouldn’t mine doing, but I don’t have enough material to perform the kind of transformations I want to do. An album of Japanese cover songs, though, has a lot more potential — I’d be hard-pressed to narrow it down. I already know I want to try some Quruli, Supercar, Shiina Ringo, maybe Number Girl and perhaps “Count Down” by Cocco … Oh, and I’m going to use the moniker Deathcake Yumi.
    UPDATE 12/15/05: Inspired by my own paraphrasing of Shiina Ringo’s Muzai Moratorium, I figure Shinkyoku Moratorium would be as good a title as any.

  • Secular
    I never think of this project till Christmas comes around. And maybe this year with my studio built, I may finally tackle it. The idea was to make a Christmas album entirely of sacred songs. Calling it Secular is sarcastic on my part.

  • Stigmata and Chess
    I just like the idea of using these as titles. But now that I think of it, I could probably rename 8.0s to Chess and give the untitled Japanese cover record the code name Stigmata.

Less is more

I noticed something about the way I’m writing these days.
Last night, I took this 16-measure sketch that’s been sitting around since 1999 and finally fleshed it out to a 3’20” song. At the time I wrote the sketch, I thought, “Well, that’s part of the song — I’ll need to go back and add more later.”
As it turned out, I added about six measures of new music to that sketch, then went about cutting and pasting the three different segments of the song till it reached a good length.
Back in 1999, I probably would have thought I needed a middle eight and a longer chorus and bridge to the chorus. Instead, I took a single melody and repeated it over and over again, but cut it up in asymetrical ways to keep it interesting.
A sketch that sat around for about six years was actually a song that was 72 percent complete.
I read a quote paraphrased from Igor Stravinsky back in music history class lo so many years ago, in which he said limitations stimulate creativity. A more specific way to say that is less is more.
I’m at the point with my songwriting where I even resist putting in middle eights. One of these days, I’m going to write an entire song on one chord!

Another reason — probably the main one — this sketch went untouched for so long was because it’s a guitar song written on a keyboard.
I dashed out the main tidbit using a patch called Fluid Guitar, and I liked the way sounded. Thing was, I didn’t know much about guitar playing back then, and I didn’t want to end up writing keyboard music that can’t be transcribed easily to guitar.
Now that I’ve had time to get familiar with the guitar, I felt confident knowing I could avoid such pitfalls.
And it sounds pretty decent.

Compare and contrast

I’ve spent the last two weekends laying down tracks for about five new songs, hoping they would fit well with what I’ve already recorded for Speechless.
Instead of taking my time with these songs, I’m working as fast I can, throwing things up at random and running with the first idea I run across. I’m not sure I like the results.
When I listen to the entire “album”, it just doesn’t flow. The first songs I recorded all fit well together, but I could tell there were holes — there needed to be more songs between them to make them feel like part of something bigger. But the songs I’m using to fill those holes don’t seem to fit.
I’ve got one song with the working title “Stepwise” that’s very fascinating rhytmically and harmonically — and it sticks out like crazy. I’ve got a two-part song that uses the same chorus between them, and they go so far as to quote other songs on the album. And they don’t seem to mesh.
I even recorded two songs, one which sounds too much like “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from Twin Peaks and the other a Depeche Mode knock-off. It was obvious right away they weren’t right for this set.
So it looks like the method I employed with Imprint — writing only as many songs as I want to appear on the album — isn’t working for Speechless. I fear I’ll have to keep throwing things against the wall till something sticks.

Another idea to consider is that these quick recordings need further refinement. Perhaps they really do fit with the album. They just don’t sound like they do because they’re the wrong mixes.
I know one song actually puts me to sleep. And it’s my own song!
The lion’s share of the work, though, is out of the way. Now that I have bass parts and drum parts and quasi-guitar parts and keyboard parts, it’s a matter of editing from here on out.
If it turns out all the editing in the world won’t make the songs fit, I guess it’s back to the drawing board.

Update/Inventory II: The songs

About two years ago, I wrote an entry describing all the songs I hadn’t yet finished. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever get off my ass and get them done. I think it’s time to mark through that old list and perhaps create a new one.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? I guess the only one to whom it does is me.

  1. “The One to Make Me Whole” To tell you the truth, this song rips off U2’s “With or Without You”, but does something a bit different with the intervals. In fact, I’m also ripping off Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” in the way the first two chords of the song move. And R.E.M.’s “World Leader Pretend”. Hell, this song isn’t much more than a rip-off of other songs. So it should sound pretty new.

    I finally recorded this song.

  2. “Can’t Decide” I wrote this lyric during an alcoholic buzz, and I suspect this song was drafted under the influence of Madonna’s “Frozen”. I think I’m going to pass on finishing this one.

    I actually had a brief sketch of this song, but I’m not going to do anything with it. Well, unless I use it for something else …

  3. “Speechless” I’ve actually written two different lyrics to the melody of this song. The first draft has long been ditched, and the second draft? I haven’t quited warmed up to it yet. Musically, I was going for something along the lines of “Yr Mother Called Them the Farmhouses” by Robin Holcomb.

    I’ve warmed up to the second version of the lyrics now.

  4. Untitled (“elevator”) I don’t know what this chord progression stands for, but I’m guess “elevator” refers to “elevator music”. Still evaluating the potential.

    This song became “A Chance to Get It Right”.

  5. Untitled (“C-Mixolydian”) No lyrics. I don’t think I even have a melody. But it was cool writing in this key.

    This song became “Without Nothing”, and it’s actually written in C-Phrygian.

  6. “Strange Arrangement” I have some lyrics to this song somewhere. The only problem is the chord progression sounds incredibly familiar to me. I don’t know who I”m ripping off, but I feel I’m ripping somebody off.

    I still can’t figure out who I’m ripping off with this song.

  7. Untitled (“Triads I”) This song is pretty eerie. E-major to C-major, G major to D major. I wrote two sets of lyrics for this song, neither of which I like.

    This song became “Letter”. I’m toying with the idea of extending this song to a number of versions, “Letter I”, “Letter II”, “Letter III”, etc.

  8. Untitled (“Triads II”) Pretty much nothing more than an A-flat major chord broken up. I have a contour for the melody, but I haven’t figured out its pacing — 8th notes or 16th notes.

    This song became “Release”, and it’s probably the most overtly sexual lyrics I’ve written.

  9. Untitled (“Guitar”) A two-bar phrase that sounds good on the guitar patch on one of my sythesizers. It hardly qualifies as a song. It’s barely the seed of an idea.

    UPDATE: I’m going to flesh this song out some more. I’m a bit more familiar with the fretboard now, and I think I can approximate guitar positions on a keyboard.

  10. Untitled (“Dolly”) This song bears so much of a resemblance to Dr.StrangeLove’s “Dolly” that I may not finish it. I may as well cover “Dolly” if I’m going to write something that sounds just like it. The chorus, though, sounds more like BBMAK. How frightening is that?

    Against my better judgment, I’m standing by this song, regardless of its overt resemblence to Dr.StrangeLove and U2. This song became “Restraint”.

  11. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #1”) “Stylish Number Girl” is a the code name for a project in which I write with a guitar, something I’ve never attempted. They’re inspired mostly by Number Girl and Cocco, the two artists who gave me the incentive to learn guitar. I think got the rhythm for this song from a Guided By Voices song, although a more immediate cousin would be Number Girl’s “Eight Beater” and “Drunk Afternoon”.

    NOTE: All songs labeled “Stylish Number Girl” will probably be recorded last because they were written on guitar, and I have yet to use Cakewalk for extensive digital audio, which these songs would require were I to play them (*cough*) on guitar.

    Despite having the guitar skills of a gnat, I managed to flesh out the songs that are part of the “Stylish Number Girl” set. The project is called Revulsion.

  12. “Revulsion” The music is pretty much finished, and the lyrics are half way done. It could be mistaken for emo. God I hope not.
  13. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #3”) I think I use these same chords in “Hear the Wind Sing”. It’s a slow song. No lyrics nor melody. Just a chord progression and a structure.
  14. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #4”) A bunch of chords that sound way too close to fra-foa because, as it turns out, it is fra-foa. Skipping.

    I did eventually rip off fra-foa on another song, “Imprint”.

  15. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #5”) A four-measure phrase in which I can’t remember why I jotted it down. It’s crap though, so I’m passing on it as well.
  16. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #6”) A four-chord progression that sounds great on a reverb pedal. I get the sense, however, these four chords will be the entire song.
  17. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #7”) This chord progression is subsumed into “Revulsion”, so I’m not sure if I’m still going to keep it spun out as its own song. It’s not like I haven’t “quoted” songs in each other before.

    I’m keeping this progression subsumed into “Revulsion”.

  18. Untitled (“Stylish Number Girl #8/Blues”) It’s not written in the aforementioned notebook, but it’s a distant cousin to Dr.StrangeLove’s “Tenohira no Naka no Freedom”. Still undecided whether to pursue.

    Well, hell, if I already ripped of “Dolly”, I may as well rip of this DSL song as well.

  19. Untitled (“ACO #1”) For an Eponymous 4 follow-up to Enigmatics, I’m drawing upon ACO and UA for inspiration. I may even pillage a ghost in my shadow for material. This song sets an F major chord against a bass line alternating between D and E-flat. In essence, Dm7 and F7/E-flat. This song is one of the two newest.

    This song became “Our Best Wasn’t Enough”.

  20. Untitled (“ACO #2”) Another song similarly constructed as the previous entry. In both songs, I started with a beat, then started playing chords that seemed to match the tempo (both pretty slow). I look forward to hearing how both sound fleshed out.

    This song became “Your Gaze”.

  21. Untitled (“Secret Oktober Dub”) I want to use the drum beat of Duran Duran’s “Secret Oktober” in a dub song. But I can’t seem to get ACO’s “Intensity (You Are)” out of my head when I’m working on it. The feel of each song is different, and I don’t know how to — or whether I can — resolve them.

    UPDATE: Although I wanted to include this song for Imprint, I couldn’t make it work. I won’t abandon the idea, but I’m prioritizing other song before it.

I managed to knock off about 9 songs off all but one from this list, and it doesn’t even include the songs I wrote after making it:

  • Choices
  • Here
  • Imprint
  • Late Thaw
  • Love and Pride
  • Rescuer
  • Undone

And now that I’ve made some progress on the Speechless Restraint-era songs, I’ve actually sketched out a few more:

  1. Untitled (Stepwise) So named because the opening chord progression is a series of stepwise major chords — C, D, E, F. I have a chorus that uses more traditional progressions, and while this progression offers its challenges melodically, I’m not sure how impressed I am by it. That is to say, I can’t hear much of a hook.
  2. Untitled (formerly Shockwave) I wrote a song back in high school that bears a tremendous resemblence to Duran Duran’s “Notorious”. I took a second look at the underlying harmonic rhythm and noticed it could sound more like Zoobombs. The chorus, though, really sucked, so that needs to be rewritten.
  3. Untitled (E-Lydian) I had a hard time picking out this song on a piano, so I switched to guitar, and the limited number of chords I know on guitar gave me better results. Then later, I ended up with …

    I don’t know my modes — this is actually written in E-Mixolydian.

  4. Untitled (E-Dorian) The bass lines are nearly identical with “Untitled (E-Lydian)”, even though E-Lydian starts on a major chord, while E-Dorian starts on a minor. I don’t want to scrap either idea, so I’m combining them into a segued piece.

    As you can see, I’ve scratched off these songs as well.

I’ve also taken on the arduous task of combing through my high school notebook, a painful process to witness all the mistakes of youth! But I am finding things here and there to comandeer, but I think I’ll save that list for another entry. That is, after I’ve actually gone through everything to figure out what stays and what goes.
[UPDATE 12/13/2005: I went back and scratched off anything else that was finished since this entry was written. It looks like I just about gone through the entire list. I don’t know about that “Secret Oktober Dub” thing, though.]


Huh. That got finished faster than I expected.
Well, it’s not really finished finished, but the songs themselves are minimally complete — they have beginnings, middles, ends and lyrics. What am I talking about? I’m talking about 「風の歌を聴け」, the strange follow-up to the mostly mainstream Imprint.
It’s a five-track EP where the songs are decidedly more off-kilter than what I usually write. “Downtown Downpour” and “Hear the Wind Sing” (the title track) are the oldest songs of the bunch, having been written in 1991 and 1995, respectively.
“A Simple Song” was plucked out as far back as 2002 or 2003 — I don’t remember. I just knew I wanted to write something that sounded like Wayne Horvitz.
“Rescuer” and “Here” were both written in 2005, the lyrics for both completed within the last two nights.
I’m not sure why I decided this particular project would have only five tracks, nor am I sure why I wrote the songs as distinctly as I did. I just knew I wanted them to sound unlike anything on Imprint.
“Here” is a particularly cheap tune — the bass line spells out two of the best known initials in classical music, D-S-C-H (Dmitri Shostakovich) and B-A-C-H (who else?) The chromaticism of the bass line works well.
That brings my rough discography to three. I guess I should get cracking on the tenatively-titled Speechless and figure out what to do with A Ghost in My Shadow.
Lyrics and music available on, of course.

Later, Henrich, Henrich, later

I remember now why I procrastinate when writing lyrics.
I’ve recounted stories many times about writing lyrics before the music when I first started out writing songs. Nowadays, I write music first, and write lyrics later.
Much, much, much later.
I’ve had a number of untitled songs sitting around in unfinished form since 1999, and over the weekend, I managed to attach a bit of meaning to them now. It’s not an easy process, and I think it’s the most creatively draining part of the whole kit-and-proverbial caboodle.
You got your X number of syllables. You got the song’s tone to consider. Matching the two is a process of trial and error, and it’s slow going.
“I remember when the earth was flatter”
“There’s a picture hanging on the back wall”
“Someone somewhere told me something diff’rent”
“Circumstances call for diff’rent measures”
All these sentences could fit a single melodic line, but which one would I feel least silliest singing? It took me two days of wrangling a catchy line to what would eventually become a song titled “Without Nothing”. I scratched out lines on two different pieces of paper before I hit on something that felt like something I could draw out further.
I remember all the things you told me
I remember all the things you did

I was trying to avoid that kind of repetition because its an easy cop-out, but there was a sentiment beneath the surface I wanted to explore. So I continued.
I remember all the things you told me
I remember all the things you did
How can I remember all the things that you want me to do?
I believed that you could walk on water
I believed that you could raise the dead
How can I believe that what you promised will work in the end?

I had actually written the chorus a few hours earlier, but scrapped it when I couldn’t match come up with verses that matched the sentiment. It didn’t seem like a perfect fit, but it fit good enough.
I just know …
It’s the one thing I’ve been waiting for all my life
It means nothing without you to make it right

The next lines that came out of me surprised me. I don’t know where it came from, but they crystallized for whom the song is intended.
I remember all the times I wanted
Something in me to change overnight
I accept that it could never happen and I don’t blame you

That stanza is pretty darn gay. So I know what had to happen in the next verse.
I believe you cannot walk on water
I believe you cannot raise the dead
I don’t believe that you could never change what is done in the end

And repeat the chorus, but it gets a bit longer …
I just know …
It’s the one thing I’ve been waiting for all my life
It means nothing without you to make it right
Give me something to remind me how it could be
Without nothing I can never learn to be free

So this song is about maintaining spirituality in the face of coming out? Perhaps. I didn’t set out to write that song, because I’m a recovering Catholic, and I like to keep “gay” and “religion” mutually exclusive concepts. But someone trying to resolve both might adopt this song as their theme, and why should I stand in the way of that?

Matching the right words to the melody takes time, and I tend to go with the first thing I latch onto. It doesn’t take long to tap the flow once it gets starting, and of course, I always edit while writing and for a good while afterward.
Other lyrics I wrote over the weekend came with much more ease, and I have to say some of the results even surprised me. The song that eventually became “Here” worried me, because the melody is plaintive and sits on a very odd chord progression. “Letter” and “Restraint” are auto-biographical to a point, whereas “Rescuer” and “Without Nothing” is fiction where my perspective is concerned.
I wish I could have set lyrics to a song going by the working title “Untitled (Hokuro/Vox)”, but, well, I haven’t settled on a melody for that song just yet.