Music: You Are My Present

You Are My Present, a song by David Watson. Performed live to tape. Well, digital.

It’s my birthday so I put this relevant song on Facebook today, and thought I would share it here.

I wrote this song years ago, shortly after my wife gave birth to our first child, but it really does apply to all of the friends and family in my life. People around you affect you and you can find that a gift or a challenge but you can’t ignore it. Some of my songs are obscured diary pages of feelings or experiences; this one is a little less obscure.

But that’s art: Polished or raw, or somewhere in between. Be brave and share it!

—–David

P.S. Recorded on my Note 8 just to see what it sounded look like without additional editing or processing.

Music: You Are My Present was originally published on Creative Uploads

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A Lullabye For Waking Up – Slept In

Click To Listen: Slept In – improvisation by David Watson

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=1651546660/size=small/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/transparent=true/

Sort of a reverse lullabye, for those times when you want to be awake, but not very, and the tendrils of almost-forgotten dreams are floating around you and you don’t want to turn on any lights or move fast or grab caffeine.

An improvisation — I began with the main phrase and had an idea where the first 8 bars might go, then I plugged in my electric piano to Garageband on my iPad and followed the music. Post-production involved a little bit of editing to tighten some timing lost through MIDI transmission (or perhaps my langourish playing) and removal of just two bars in the middle that were fine but unnecessary.

It’s a great way to start the day when you can. Relaxed. S-l-o-w-l-y. From one non-morning person to you.

—–David

P.S. Conveniently on my Bandcamp page for your solid free streaming needs. You are welcome to buy it too, of course, or hire me to come to your house and play it, but not in the morning.

 

 

 

 

A Lullabye For Waking Up – Slept In was originally published on Creative Uploads

Listen To This: NPR Music’s The Austin 100: Stream Or Download Our 2018 SXSW Mixtape

I am always on the lookout for ways to make things more efficient so that I can fit new things in my life, or maybe catch up on all the things I haven’t gotten to. Honestly sometimes it’s to give me more time to goof off, but so what.

So I have this habit going back five years or so, where I would find the giant torrent file that someone created of all of the songs by SXSW invited artists, musicians and bands scheduled to appear that particular year. If you don’t know what a torrent is think of it as a large digital file that you can download a little faster than just from one website. Anyway, imagine that you wanted a sample of music from people playing at SXSW in Austin, that’s what this is to me: a kind of digital radio program that would get you up to speed. Since I don’t go to SXSW, it took me there instead.

Except this compilation is sometimes 1100 or even 1700 songs in all kinds of styles, including some that I don’t particularly care for and mostly artists that you’ve never even heard of. But some of them you should have, and some of the songs are inventive, or cool or soon to be cult classics, or up-and-coming stars.

If you listen to music because you want to make it, if you listen to music while you’re writing and it sets the mood for you, or if you want to do the other thing I did with it, which is torture your family by methodically playing all of the songs over the next few months deciding which ones you’d like to keep and rating them on your iPod, that is definitely the way to go.

Just Google “SXSW 2018 torrent” and figure out how to torrent something if you don’t know how, and you will have more music than you care to listen to. And I mean that in all the ways you can mean that, and I apologize for some songs that you will hate, not all of which will overlap with the ones that I would hate, which is what is so amazing about the whole thing.

But this post is about efficiency. I actually don’t know if somebody made a giant music file pile this year, but I noticed last year that NPR was putting up a list of their favorite 100 songs, which means they already went through a multitude of artists and picked some amazing stuff and made it available in one download.

And here it is.

Stream or download 100 great songs by artists performing at SXSW 2018.
— Read on www.npr.org/2018/03/01/585356494/the-austin-100-a-2018-sxsw-mixtape

I haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet, but last year there were a lot more hits than misses. Plus, it had a few songs that weren’t in the giant torrent file that I also listened to, and didn’t have some songs from that pile that I really loved. But this time I’m going to stop at 100, and move on to the next addictive media on my list. If you find something really great in the giant pile free to share the details in a comment below.

—–David

P.S. Last year my daughter and I got a kick out of Tacocat, whose song “I Hate The Weekend” was particularly catchy, though we enjoyed it ironically and actually like the weekend. I do not know how the band really feels about the weekend, but that is the beauty of Art: the end-user can interpret it anyway they want and there’s not a lot you can do to stop that.

P.P.S. Update: I had to find out. 1276 files. I’m going to try not to download them too.

Listen To This: NPR Music’s The Austin 100: Stream Or Download Our 2018 SXSW Mixtape was originally published on Creative Uploads

Capture Creativity Quick

So one of the difference between successful people and — let’s say less successful people? — isn’t the ideas. It’s sharing them. It takes a lot of work, but we can take the first step very easily.

If your goal is producing creative content, jokes, stories, music, art, whatever…. the trick is to capture the inspiration when you have it even if you can’t devote time to it when it first arrives. It doesn’t have to be finished; you are writing a note to your future self. It can be a sketch or fragment, it just needs to last long enough that you can work on it more, or remember enough to build on it, even years later!

I’m going to talk about musical creativity, but this works for all sorts of inspirations. ’80s pop star John (Cougar) Mellencamp wrote the lyrics to one of his hit songs on the shower door with soap. Who knows how many books and businesses have been built on the backs of bar napkins? I’ve chanted things to myself all day while avoiding just writing them down, kept a notepad by my bed — though now I’ll actually write notes to myself on my phone with a stylus –- which may or may not be better than my previous habit of just getting up for an hour in the middle of the night to write whatever song started when my head hit the pillow.

Countless songwriters have sung into tape recorders over the ages or scribbled down notes . With my first camera capable phone, I would record one-handed the melody that had come to me in 15 second video clips. Sometimes, like this example, I angle my iPad on my music stand so that I can see where my fingers were later.

The improvement on this is that now as soon as I’ve come up with the fragment of a song on any instrument, I turn on the electric piano and record the phrase and following improvisation via MIDI direct into a computer. (GarageBand on iPad works pretty good too in a pinch.) Not only does this give me the exact notes I played in the very improvisation I am building on, but it means that I can edit them, fixing glitches in my spontaneous phrasing, or creating a complete arrangement on top of the original sketch and eventually moving the first take out of the mix completely.

So much easier than my early attempts with cassette tapes. Heck, I once spoke the first chapter or so of a book I never wrote into a cassette recorder while hiking, that’s hilarious to listen to. (You don’t know if I’m pausing because I needed to breathe or I didn’t know what to say next.)

Anyway, my point is this applies to anything that you want to capture organically and move into the future as a more polished product. You don’t need to rely on your memory, and you certainly don’t need the conceit that if you forget it later, it wasn’t that good an idea. Don’t be a baby: write it down or capture it, and let your future self figure out that sometimes it’s crap and sometimes it’s not.

And if you end up with too many fragments of stuff to get to, oh darn why is that a problem? Learn to filter through it and work on your favorite thing until you have something done, then climb back on the pile and see what’s next.

—–David

P.S. For the record I often use S-Note on my aging Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for writing things down, and I love Evernote but now that it is free for only two devices at a time, I am trying desperately to use Microsoft OneNote which I find much more cumbersome and harder to search. It seems like OneNote wants you to have everything local before you can search, where Evernote searches in the cloud so you can pull down what you are looking for.

I really wish there was a reasonably priced plan for Evernote that gave me more devices but the tiny amount of monthly bandwidth that I really use. The upgraded plans are still too much of a stretch for the mostly casual user.

Capture Creativity Quick was originally published on Creative Uploads

Fake It Until You Make It Is Terrible Advice For Artists

What does it even mean? Try hard until you succeed? No, that would be fine. Is it some perverse sexual wordplay? Well, art is art, but no.

So, pretend that you can do something until you do?

That’s great if you’re in an 80’s movie*, but really, if you are trying to make something….

Wait for it.

Please wait, or please do something

MAKE SOMETHING.

It won’t be good. It might be okay. Odds are it will totally suck. Privately, even you might realize it’s crap, or you might think it’s the best thing ever (and that’s great, but honestly this often happens because we are so happy we actually made something! But really we tend to give ourselves extra credit for understanding our artistic process and the subtext.)

So it’s made, but it’s bad. So what? And, so what now?

Simple: Don’t pretend it’s good and stop. Repeat the process. Make something else. Again and again. Again.

Hey wait, that time it was okay. Maybe it even shows a glimmer of something shinier than the sum of its parts. Maybe someone else gets a glimpse of your subtext this time, as you refine your ability to communicate it.

Because we get better with practice, but in the creative field, practice is actually fun. Oh, and hard work at times, but fun.

Faking it doesn’t make anything.

Make it until you don’t feel like you’re faking it. Or until enough others feel that way, depending on how deep you like to breed your artistic angst.

—–David

P.S. “In the creative field, practice is actually fun” does not only apply to textbook definitions of creative endeavors. You can draw on creativity, inspiration, delightful random chance, discovery, and whimsy in any situation with excellent results.

Part of that trick is sometimes using creativity more for creation and less for expression (And not with numbers. Don’t get creative with the numbers!). Technique and presentation can come from opposite corners.

I mean, I don’t know what Newton was doing under that apple tree, but an apple fell on his head and he decided to define gravity mathematically. You can’t tell me that’s not creative as hell. And pie. Who came up with apple pie?

And even longer ago:

Do or do not. There is no try.

Or so I have heard.

* I’m thinking Michael J. Fox in “The Secret of My Success” here, not Michael J. Fox in “Bright Lights, Big City,” one of which is funnier (not saying which) but both involve faking it and making it in business, though not in the creative field.

Fake It Until You Make It Is Terrible Advice For Artists was originally published on Creative Uploads

Christmas In Your Eyes

Another holiday, another song… (well a new recording, anyway) with a little video to entertain you while you listen.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmegawatson%2Fvideos%2F10156008086025909%2F&show_text=1&width=560

From our Facebook page!*

“Happy Christmas holidays everyone! It’s time for another song (not the one I planned, but it’s sweeter….)

Your present is a song I wrote when my daughter was two. You can interpret it any way you like, but I think it’s for parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and family who get a fresh look at the joys of the season….

It’s on Bandcamp too, especially for the free audio streaming.

 

Peace,

—–David

P.S. An experiment in posting backwards — Facebook first and embedded here. What’s the point of life if not to test things, technical and otherwise? So I learned that you can’t read the text on the embed thanks to my current theme, and it steals you away to Facebookland instead of opening a new window. But the video will stream faster.

P.P.S.  A quick recording on in Logic X with my electric piano and the MIDI function. I do not love the string sounds as much as I hoped.

Christmas In Your Eyes was originally published on Creative Uploads

GarageBand IOS iCloud Bug trashes the local original file

Just a little public safety note that I discovered, and I am not particularly angry yet, because for some reason I had made a back up before I tried to upload my file to keep a back up safe.

Creative uploads iOS GarageBand iCloud bug music

There seems to be a bug when using iCloud to backup a project file in GarageBand iOS that destroys your original local copy while also failing to create the backup.

So I use Windows PCs primarily, so I know that I cannot back up my GarageBand files directly to it. There is some evilness going on where Windows sees the song’s  .band back up file as a folder, and I have never seen a way to get around it. That means if you make a back up by having GarageBand create one for iTunes, then you have to sync with iTunes on a Mac in order to see it correctly and get it off of the iPad.

So generally I create a back up on iCloud. And this recent instance I had first copied the file that I wanted to back up inside GarageBand iOS, because I thought I might do some additional editing on it but I wanted to keep the original version safe.  So I trigger the iCloud backup and it spun for a little bit and then gave me this error message: it couldn’t back it up because it was damaged or in an incompatible format. In fact what had happened is an 8-kilobyte file was created in iCloud and it also overwrote the original project file ON THE IPAD.

If I had not made a copy, my work would have been destroyed. After some experimentation and troubleshooting — with many copies, thank you very much — I discovered that it was happening when I was uploading to the subfolder I created in iCloud for my music; it’s called garagebandmusic. No fancy spaces or anything. 

When I copied the GarageBand project file to the main folder file it uploaded successfully. At this point I am not moving it inside iCloud to the folder that I want to use, because I don’t know what the bug is. But I will be hooking my iPad up to a Mac as soon as possible and copying everything off again to have a safe back up.

If you don’t have space on your device I would suggest at the very least making a high-quality copy of your song and mailing it to yourself, or making “stems” which is exporting each track separately from the mix, by muting each track in turn and creating a full length audio file for each track individually. So tedious, and that’s how I used to have to make a backup of all my songs before the iCloud feature was added, because it let me use the tracks in something else, remix later and have some flexibility, although I did lose the ability to edit MIDI data that way, since it was converted to the final audio file.

It’s better than losing everything though.

—–David

P.S. If you are writing music for video or film, stems are terrifically useful alongside the final mix, because you can steal a chord from one section, repeat a bridge with cleaner edits, even create new interludes right in your editing software when an edit changes just a little. Imagine the flexibility you have with time in film applied to the musical layers. This is great if your composer can’t help in a time crunch, or even if  you are the composer.

I used these tricks when I made a short film for Phoenix Comicon a few years ago.  I actually wrote and recorded most of the music I used while still writing the script, before I had even shot anything. It came to me in moments of inspiration during the screenwriting and script editing,  so I composed and recorded a mini soundtrack as a suite, basically. 

In video editing, I found some lengths didn’t fit perfectly. Rather than re-record everything to fit my new desired timing, or worse, leaving timing in place on the film but forcing it to match the music despite the visual rhythms’ own desires, I could pull out pieces, or use shorter bars, vamps and stingers exactly how I wanted. And all on GarageBand iOS, with no iCloud or project backup available at the time.

P.P.S. It’s called Take Me 2 UR Leader and it was a final selection for the Film Challenge that year, not top prize or anything but a rare group. Plus I made a movie in 30 days where I got to handle everything but the acting roles (well, I did do one). I will tell you that’s great fun but collaboration is really great too.

GarageBand IOS iCloud Bug trashes the local original file was originally published on Creative Uploads

“A Dying Man” Sings His Tale?

I believe in inspiration and I believe in creation and I believe in editing, but sometimes:

  • You’re inspired to just put something out without any editing and that’s OK
  • You create something without pure inspiration and you edit it and that’s OK.
  • You have an idea and you put it down and it needs more polish but you don’t get back to it
    • Quickly
    • Ever
      • And that’s still okay. Wasteful maybe, but you’ll have other ideas and enjoy yourself in the meantime.

My point is that you don’t have to have all the pieces together in a row. You just have to have some good pieces and not worry about the polish if that fits the mood. But the last step for you in an artistic process is to Share. Publish. (Unless you are making it for yourself and I certainly enjoy that too.

But the whole process is the mission statement of this blog. So I decided to record this song because I’m here to share stuff and to be brave enough to share, and silly and foolish and occasionally imperfect. Follow me!

My detailed creation process on this video:
It’s too much work I don’t have time to get it just right I guess I’ll do it later and then not do it at all — No just do it!

Also I love bootlegs, so this is a bootleg then.

I used to sing this sometimes while playing guitar at a restaurant I worked at called Bobby McGee’s Conglomeration. All the service staff were costumes, and for this song I tended to lean into an Irish accent because that’s how it feels to me, so I thought it’s St. Patrick’s Day, why not?

—–David

P.S. Apologies to Caribbean pirates for the pun title. And I sang “maiden” twice; the first time it’s supposed to be “honor of lady.” My lady is the smiling woman at the top of the post, she helps make me alive.

P.P.S.  This song is ©2017 David Watson all rights reserved. Contact me if you want to use it for your marriage proposal. Funny story, one table I sang this for was a couple and an earnest young man talking intently about something, and they tipped me $50 bucks. I think they found it helpful, but I’ll never know where he was in the song: drowning, dying, learning or awake.

“A Dying Man” Sings His Tale? was originally published on Creative Uploads

Storm In A Teacup

I always liked the phrase “Storm In A Teacup.” It’s British, but the Americanized version is a “tempest in a teapot”, which aside from being alliterative would allow for a slightly larger storm, or perhaps a copy of that Shakespeare play. I don’t know why it’s changed, we have teacups, too.

In any case it’s about making a bigger deal of something than you should, but instead I imagine a tiny tornado twisting its way around the rim of the china, as if stirred by a spoon suddenly removed, the leaves at the bottom of the cup stirred up and swirling as the brewing process makes it darker and darker.

I suppose that changes the meaning. And who minds a quick storm now and then, as long as it’s small and passes quickly? It brings a little excitement, maybe makes you dizzy? creative uploads writing teacup ride carnival

If not recommended for life, use that feeling in your writing. Great for conflict and potential resolution. What’s important to one character isn’t always perceived the same as another: was the response too big, too small, pointless, funny, sympathy-inducing? Or were they just interested in some tea with sugar?

—–David

P.S. I enjoy wordplay. And I enjoy the screeching halt when you suddenly stop. Contrast is good in writing.

P.P.S.  Songwriter Stephen Bishop wrote a song using this phrase, though it’s called “Madge.”  Here’s a nice cover of it on YouTube.  Bishop is more famous for things like “On and On”, “It Might Be You” (from “Tootsie”) and “Save It for a Rainy Day.” He also wrote and sang “Animal House.” So there’s that.

Here’s his own performance of Madge even though this musical P.S. diversion has little to do with the start of this post, it’s another tangent in how to use words to tell a story, right?

Storm In A Teacup was originally published on Creative Uploads

Good Luck on Sunday, Lin Manuel-Miranda!

I do think La La Land may take it, but “Where I’ll Go” is a fabulous film song. Not as funny as “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” but critical to defining Moana.

But I am really here (spoiler?) to finally say (now that everybody has had a chance to see it) how glad I am to see the pseudopod from James Cameron’s 80’s film “The Abyss” get more work in “Moana,” and a bigger role too.

Creative uploads water abyss pseudopod (If you haven’t seen it, you will figure it out when you do.)

It’s a fabulous film, you should see it if you haven’t. (I meant “The Abyss” but “Moana” too.) Science fiction but heartfelt with great performances and a better story than “Titanic”, I think. Though even longer and wetter. No, I am not going to make a dirty joke, instead  I will say: A shame Disney isn’t adding it to their parks instead of “Avatar.” 🙂

—–David

P.S. As I write this, Sunday is the next Academy Awards, aka Oscars 2017. In case you read this before any other Sunday.

P.P.S. Now I want ice cream. Who keeps bringing up sundaes?

Good Luck on Sunday, Lin Manuel-Miranda! was originally published on Creative Uploads