“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

Advertisements

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

Music Making Needs Control: GarageBand iOS 

creative uploads music GarageBand songwriting

I really like Garageband iOS on my iPad. Lately it’s been improved to the point where the annoyance of not being able to do something critical has been replaced by the smaller annoyance of needing to learn where they have hidden how to do some things.

Did you know that if you long press on the Undo button it pops up the option to Redo? Why would they hide that? There’s a perfectly good space next to the Undo button where a reversed arrow would have fit! Seriously made me mad, and now that I know, let me make you mad so it can stop driving you mad.

And volume control. For ages I have battled uneven volume in a single track. Usually vocals where I just sing a few phrases with a little more gusto. The workaround was to pick a level in between that you could live with, or create another track and split the different volume tracks between them, louder clips on one with the main volume brought down, and then a boosted track to bring quieter audio up to balance.

Now Apple has included Automation controls to add a volume level path to audio tracks as they play. I think Adobe used to call them rubber bands.
This feature overrides your ability to use the regular volume slider, so get that about where you want it for the majority of your track first. Yes, this means you should already have a rough mix worked out, if you want to work more efficiently.

To activate the Automation, you tap the instrument icon on the desired track, then the yellow lightning bolt type icon below it (reference the photo). This creates the first flat audio band, set to the current volume level. You can pull it up and down carefully and it will show you the decibel changes, but this pulls the straight line between points and doesn’t work in pencil edit mode.

When you slide over the pencil lock control in the upper left into edit mode (bright red), you can tap on the line to create additional points, or long press on existing points to move them up, down, or sideways. Experiment on your own. Remember you need two points for a volume transition, but it can be a slow fade or really close  together for a jump. (Great for taking down a sound without cutting the track apart.

And remember you have Undo and Redo buttons when you screw up. You will screw up. TIP: Don’t try to swipe around in tracks to different parts of the song by touching the activated track. Just don’t. 

When done with the editing you can slide the pencil edit off. But you also need to click Done in the upper right to close the Automation control and get back to other controls.

I used this feature extensively to mix and duck audio in the track I posted for my wife this Valentine’s Day. Hear my Simply Need song free on Bandcamp. It made it easier to get an acceptable mix under deadline and tweak things at the last minute.

Enjoy your free time! Or use it to make more stuff, that’s cool,too.

—–David

P.S. GarageBand is free if you bought an iOS device that runs it anytime in the last few years. Now if you want to convert it to another format, well, that requires a Mac since you can’t open or extract from the file on Windows. But using GarageBand on a Mac (also free, the software not the Mac) you can move it off the iPad and not have to keep everything you created on a device that might just die or get stolen one day! (Yikes! Lived that fear.) With Logic (about $100) you can work on your composition in a much more full featured (professional even) audio software tool. 

P.P.S. If you have a friend with a Mac and work in Windows, they can use Logic to actually unpack the file to get to the midi and audio stems, which you could then import into your own DAW (digital audio workstation). It’s a little bit complicated but might be worth it if your music is trapped on an iPhone and you want it in another format for future use. You cannot copy the file to Windows and move it though, you have to sync to the Mac (or maybe use iCloud).

Music Making Needs Control: GarageBand iOS  was originally published on Creative Uploads

Glass Jigsaw Puzzles and Hamilton

My daughter and I were lucky enough to catch “Hamilton” on Broadway during our recent trip (with the original cast save the first king and one fantastic understudy!), and I will talk about that more in another post. This is a nice HDR picture of the set (stage left) from my Note 4. Amazed that they let you take pictures, even if it is before the show starts. 

But what I want to talk about is creation: writing and editing. Obviously in a play, unlike a movie, there is no editing of the performance; it’s all done in a rush, without a net. But it doesn’t arrive fully formed. It comes in starts and fits, and requires consistent if not constant pressure to move it forward. 

Now I’ve written a lot, including hundreds of songs over the years, and some of them rush out fairly complete, and occasionally that shape feels complete and final and fantastic at once. But there are others, many still unfinished, that are a line or rhyme, or sometimes a few chords or notes, awaiting the next step. That step can come from more random inspiration, or the hard work of thinking and trying, and both methods work. Funny enough, each can take the same period of time to work. I’m talking about music today, but all art can be like this.

One feels harder and the other looks like wasted time. 

Being patient and letting your mind and activities go elsewhere takes time and can mean you lose the thread at times, and risk the possibility of losing it completely. But in your head, it’s sometimes a stressful, persistent juggling. Oh, there are breaks, and then it returns. Juggle me!

The other method, which is not my favorite but I embrace it once it starts (like falling down a hill!), is like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle made of glass. It’s intimidating before you begin and often painful to do.

It’s invisible, and you can’t see it or tell how big it is. Sometimes you get cut picking up the pieces and trying to find where they fit. You can shatter the whole thing just trying to put it together. Even when you feel that it’s done, it’s only a reflection to you, therefore you are never sure.

So you edit and tidy and clean up the edges and hope others can see it the way you want them to, or not see through it, or just understand it. Maybe any one person grasping even a piece of it would be enough, a sliver of appreciation cast over your shadow of doubt. Damn the layers, does anybody at least care that I made it?

“Hamilton” took Lin-Manuel Miranda seven years to write. Seven hard years of looking at shapes and threads and materials, mixing them together and throwing them away, and throwing them together, and carving out a form from a giant mass that looked nothing like the finished product. Sometimes creation is pleasant; one of the earliest songs was written on his honeymoon, a simple joyous discovery from inspiration and sudden understanding. Sometimes it’s a migraine-inducing search for a needle in a haystack that’s all needles except only one is the right one. Mixed media, indeed.

Why do it? Once you start you want to quit and you can’t. Or, you don’t want to quit and can’t get started. 

Once you think you’re finished, you have to go back and go through it again in case you missed something, or are driven to fine-tune it because it deserves to be better; if not perfect, almost perfect. If not almost-perfect, tolerable. Why do it at all?

Why? For me, the joy of discovery. The soft ego of being the conduit. The collector’s thrill of being the first one to find something that may be valuable and no one else knows it yet.

This journey of creation, art or otherwise*, it’s what I’ve written about before: persistence and patience, a dance of contrasting approaches that meet in the middle of art, and commerce, and love, and family…. Oh, it’s life.

Enjoy the now, whichever one you are in, or change it as needed, whether they be big or small changes in the end.

—-David

* Many things can be art, be artistic, or be done with artistic finesse. It counts if it’s important to you, even just in the moment of action. Don’t be condescending about it, or conversely, put yourself down for working within your skills or situation. Parenthood, cooking dinner, having a conversation, cleaning house … Do you know why the fancy and mundane are explored in art? Because whether being honored or vilified, the trappings of life are the raw material from whence all things spring. Spring forth!

P.S. WE ARE ALL STAR STUFF (Carl Sagan).

Glass Jigsaw Puzzles and Hamilton was originally published on Creative Uploads

Musing Is Its Own Muse

I haven’t written a poem in quite a while. Decided to take a nap today and while pondering a great many things, one started to come to me, and I decided to fight to a draw and write down a couple of lines then sleep while I had time, and the poem won.

Here it is. Still working on the title though, so a victory for procrastination!



When wearily I lay down to rest


When wearily I lay down to rest

The answers to the universe come to me

The secret of life just about to be revealed

A peaceful moment brings a sense of clarity 

History dwelled upon uncovers hidden truths

Like a dream everything is in my power, possible,

Has been unknowingly under my control for ages

And the instructions for the machinery are all clear

It isn’t just imagination but understanding, for I am awake

Foolish insecurities vanish into confidence

And everything is so pleasantly obvious

And comfortable 

And comforting 

And peaceful

That just as 

I am ready

To wake up,

I sleep.

—David

P.S. The spark not just of inspiration but of action here was a realization that almost the only thing that ever pulled me out of bed when I have ideas at these moments is music. I can and have written notes to myself on paper or my phone or my pad over the years, though not often enough, but when a song comes to me * and grows beyond a verse into a chorus, I’d feel like I needed to rescue that moment from oblivion; so I would arise and go to a piano or guitar or just my songbook and often end up sketching out an entire song in fifteen minutes to an hour, usually with chords included. “Who needs sleep?” but also “who can sleep?” with a song stuck on your head.

Still, why music? A simple matter of two against one (words and music vs. sleepy/lazy me). Plus I always love music, but don’t always love having songs stuck in my head.

* “A song comes to me.” What an arrogant, incomplete and inaccurate description of a multi-faceted process with its myriad of possible avenues of inspiration. Sometimes it’s a flash, from stray thought or deliberate one, and sometimes it takes years, literally, for the shape to  even start resembling a song. Yeah, but songs come to me. And being able to recognize them in all their forms is pretty great.

Also this gives me the idea for a song….

Musing Is Its Own Muse was originally published on Creative Uploads