The Lyrics Slowly Enter the Fray…

After a bit of a delay this month, I’ve finally made a template that I’m satisfied with for displaying the lyrics/prose that will slowly be making their way onboard. There are a dozen or so on the lyrics page now and soon there’ll be a slider carousel so you can flip through them a little quicker. There will be some lyrics posted for songs or spoken pieces which I don’t have a good recording of, but still may yet find. And in some cases, it might be more fun anyways to just read the lyrics; especially if a certain unnamed someone may have sung a tad out of tune on a particular selection  ;-). I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Here’s “Wire to the Sky” and “Engineering Our Escape” to start things off:

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Video: “All Blues/Set the Controls….”


Cover tunes are a great way to improve your chops and timing, learn how songs are put together, and can be a fun inclusion into a live set or album. During periods where I’m not writing and practicing my own stuff, I always have a song or two in mind to play along with so I can get out of my set patterns on the fretboard and maybe commit some new chord shapes or finger patterns to muscle memory. Many times those newly learned chord patterns can give you some ideas for your next batch of tunes. Other times, it can be a comical act of futility (“Siberian Khatru” from Yessongs, anyone?) where you’re just left flabbergast at the level of talent and genius in some people’s playing.

Since I started writing and performing my own stuff 20+ years ago, I’ve only done around seven or so cover tunes live or in the studio; and most of those were only done once. All but one of those (June’s “Lena Champagne”) got recorded and will be in the online sound files. The only two that got played more than once were two that I paired together into a medley to end the set with; kind of a ‘chaser’/treat for the audience, lol, after having survived an hour of fractured pop and no holds barred space rock/noise. It was fun to play, and I think we put our stamp on it as well; turning Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” from a multi-verse song in 4/4 time (a 3/3/2 feel) into a 1.5 verse abbreviation with pitch-shifted and echoed vocals done in 3/4 time which still retained a heavy psychedelic impact. Then we nestled it in between a rock-flavored impression of Miles Davis’ “All Blues”, already in a 3-based time signature (6/8), transposed to the key of A to start and end the number. Although not the best version we did (I had mis-set the vocal effects knobs in the dark and had to fix them mid-song), one night it was caught on video, seen above. Cover tunes are always a good option to keep in mind; whether for that extra song in the set, or as a learning tool to help you improve your playing and arranging skills.

You might not get back…to the Muse

Some writers and lyricists have a muse; others just go solo or have a co-writer to bounce things off of and consider the process a much more practical and grounded affair than do the muse-poets. Some only write when inspiration strikes or they feel compelled to do so; others adhere to a schedule. For myself, I’ve found that the writing music bit has worked well using just about any method, but the writing of many lyrics and spoken word pieces has actually been a muse-assisted process, and I’ve never really been certain how much of it to attribute to the relationships first described by Robert Graves. But by sticking to the habit of writing lyrics and poems only when inspired, I didn’t burn out; forcing words or turning it into a rote process.

Sure, I would always jot down good ideas or lines when they appeared, and could obviously finish up a piece that was mostly done when not feeling the ‘connection’ to an external source. But for what felt like more serious endeavors, especially multi-hour writing sessions once or twice a year, there did seem to be someone or something that would kind of ‘hold the door open’ across the Arch for my imagination. Then it was all up to my felt-tip pen to madly scribble it all down before the curtain closed.

Many times the inspiration, or fuel, was my earthly muse; and that (devotional?) mindset combined with the poet’s sharp eye in some kind of intense primitive or pre-Bakti ritual. It was pretty amazing; some of those days I cranked out four or five completed song lyrics and three or four spoken pieces in their entirety in one sitting. It really felt like a not-just-me experience, and many of those songs ended up being among my best ever, without having to add or edit a single word. Other days, you’d struggle just to get a decent verse or song title. So I don’t think people can just dismiss the muse-poet theory out of hand, but it’s obviously not how everybody works.

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Our World in 2012

After some holiday visits and such, I’m back at my desk with some posts to round out the year. Today’s post is a neat encapsulation of the planet’s population and stats showing what our world would look like if we were reduced to 100 people representative of our current makeup. The site I’m referencing from, 100people.org, bills itself as a global educational toolbox and has a lot of neat info, pics, videos and stories of our planet’s now 7 billion human inhabitants. You can view the stats page here. The info has been updated and there are many surprising changes just in the last five years. Here’s what they’ve come up with:

If the World were 100 PEOPLE:

50 would be female
50 would be male

26 would be children
There would be 66 adults,
8 of whom would be 65 and older

83 would be able to read and write; 17 would not

7 would have a college degree
22 would own or share a computer

77 people would have a place to shelter them
from the wind and the rain, but 23 would not

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Experiments in Writing and Recording Music; intro

If no one ever experimented or tried new stuff out, we’d be a sorry lot living in caves with bare walls throwing rocks at animals to get ourselves dinner. No bows and arrows, no wheels, no electricity, no computers, no space travel, no web conference calls discussing neutrinos, no s’mores. There’s also a lot of utter crap we wouldn’t have to deal with as well: pollution, cluster bombs, advanced marketing techniques for someone’s useless trinket, GMO’s in your organic brown rice, PR firms and microwavable s’mores.

This applies to music, arts and philosophy just as much as it applies to technology, science and commerce. There will be inspiring innovations, and there will be crap in its wake as well. The larger point is about moving forward through exploration, curiosity and creativity. You’re not going to learn how to ride a bike until you try; and that includes some scraped knees and elbows along the way. But you’re not even going to be able to do that until someone’s curiosity and ingenuity invents the tires, spokes, handlebars and metallic frame first.

Experimentation in the arts isn’t generally viewed as being as crucial to humanity’s fate as advances in medicine, food development and technology are. C’est la vie. But some of the earliest attempts at communication (and all arts are at their core simply a form of communication), from wall paintings, carvings and music to storytelling, constellations and early attempts at written symbols have generated more than their fair share to our general welfare and advancement. And if you’re an aspiring artist, writer or musician, or even an established pro in the creative arts, at some point in your development you’re going to have to try new things or new ways of doing things as part of the learning process.

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The bookends are still to come

Welcome. Thanks for dropping in. The first batch of tracks uploaded to the new site here span from a live 1991 gig onward through the 2000’s; a good intro to my somewhat chameleon-like output and various bands/projects over 25 years of songwriting, experimentation and music-making.

There’s lots of guitar here, of course: acoustic, electric, slide, prepared guitar, lap steel, fx freak outs and more. And songs of all sizes, be it a full electric band or a solo folkie nugget. But there’s also the sound-making adventures I’ve always been fond of taking that get featured as well. The lap steel/fx duet with shortwave radio that is “Hurtling Thru the Information Age”. The contagious (literally) electric prose of “Language”. The Pink Floyd cover arranged for autoharp, tea kettle, trash pail, cassette case and seashore. A guitar conjuring up CB radio voices and phone conversation in “Word Travels Fast”. Vignettes from the Urban Candid Mic-ing series. The tabla, gong and organ sounds coaxed out of an old Richenbacher slide guitar on “Steel, Delay and Buddhist Monks” and more. It was always that thirst for sounds and how they could be presented that drove my musical engine. That some of them landed on their feet was just a bonus. So hopefully while you’re here today you can scroll thru a playlist and find something that appeals to your listening needs, whether in the songs and pieces or in the lab experiments.

The bookends are still to come. The most recent material (2007-present) and the earliest stuff (pre-1991) still are not represented onsite yet, for very different reasons. The newest stuff is mostly unfinished; instrumental guitar pieces which still need arrangements, a few songs with drums and vocals, and some promising electric bazouki sessions done recently at PureLand Sound Studios out west. The oldest material, on the other hand, is all on 20+ year old cassettes that have braved the weather extremes of my various moves through the years; some need a simple digital transfer and cleanup, while others have succumbed to breakage, tape hiss or de-magnetization. But the ‘fun’ stuff done on the 4T will be remixed where possible. That process was ensured when local audiophile NZ donated a double-speed 4T cassette machine which will allow a revisiting of those heady days of the Tascam PortaStudio; the first generation of home multitrack recorders, the true forbear of the affordable and portable DIY multitrack recording systems everyone enjoys today.

Video: Attack of the Glow

Here’s a short video to start December. POV: Lying on the forest floor, looking up at the leaves. The clouds have held the bright fall colors in check; that is, until the sun arrives, igniting the whole forest up with a vivid glow. Watch the treetops sway above you, autumn briefly reigning until the arrival of winter. 

I also re-edited my first HD vid from last week, shortening it and correcting the sound. In this one, three leaves, making good progress downstream, enter an eddy. “It’s a trap!” Too late, they enter the swirl of purgatory. See that short in the post below (re-uploaded today).

The music and noise arrive…

November 22-30, 2011. While construction continues in the music room, there are music players in the sidebar to allow you to quickly grab-n-go with a pop-out music player and get back to surfin’ the web. The playlists let you choose between five styles of Jeff C Radio to listen to; each is a 30 minute mini-set, except for the Slow Space one (17:00), and you can easily scroll thru tracks to go back or skip ahead. There is also a new musicplayer at the bottom of the list which will allow you to scroll through a random ordering of all the tracks onsite if you would prefer an index-by-surprise approach.

Keep an eye out for improvements as we tweak the music players, normalize track volumes and bring more material on board from disparate sources together into a cohesive blend of new and old. We’re very happy to get to this stage of the ‘construction’, and hope you’ll give a curious listen while you’re here. Now there’s more than just a quiet front porch to hang out on; we have a front door and a hallway and we have tunes-to-go. The kitchen and couch can’t be far behind. So like the song says, “Come on in, pull up a chair. Talk to me, thanks for stoppin’ by.” Cheers!

Video: Seasonal Leaves’ Dilemma- “It’s A Trap!”

Depending upon your locale’s elevation and latitude, the leaves in your area may have changed six weeks ago or they just might be getting started in mid- and late November. I took my cam and got some foliage footage around Rock Creek Park in DC a few days ago, and am in the process of editing them down to a few short videos. Some of the footage I liked was of all the leaves traveling downstream, many of which had begun to slow and circle as their predecessors started to clog the stream’s arteries. Good timing. The next day when I returned to get some more shots like that, the stream was fully clogged.

Seasonal leaves video #1 is a stationary camera angle, shot in HD just above water level, of leaves caught in an eddy, and captures the harsh glare of the late afternoon November sun, even with the camera and stream bed fully in the shade.