Wednesday, July 17, 2013
As most of you know, Cindy and I relocated to southern Indiana. That’s an area that is known as The Heartland. This is John Mellencamp territory; in fact, he was born on Seymour, about 20 miles from where we live.
My wife (aka: friend/muse) suggested that I do an album with a “rural” theme. The actual word she used was Agricultural, but I decided to broaden it a bit. So, I started to look around the area to see what there was in the way of inspiration.
In my universe, if you go looking for inspiration, you WILL find. It’s there; you just have to spot it and be open to it. There was the wind farm right around Lafayette; there’s the Muscatatuck River which runs less than 2 miles from our house; there’s the Blue River and the Wabash, both of which have historical connections. Of course, the green fields of corn and soy abound and stretch for miles and miles. There was a lot of beauty, a lot of heritage to draw from.
Then came the writing. With the help of a lot of photos and video footage, I was able to capture, not only the essence but the motion of many of these places and things. Working instrumentally meant that I could use a wide variety of musical colors from the sonic palette; it also gave me an opportunity to incorporate my two steel string guitars: a 1971 Martin 12-string with the “high” strings removed, and a 1950 Harmony Archtop that I got at an auction just before we left New York State.
When the recording was done, I sent the mixes to my good friend, and former recording partner, Scott B. Adams to be mastered. The result is a lovely sounding tonal picture of the amazing variety of the landscape of Middle America.
Should you be interested in sampling (or purchasing) any of this new music, check out CDBaby .
And to watch the video of “Wind Farm” go to Windfarm .
It’s almost like a ballet with wind mills.
One more thing: there is a new opportunity for anyone who feels led to support me as an independent musician. Patreon.com is best described as a Kickstarter-style campaign, but it’s ongoing. For more information on how it works, go toPatreon .
Monday, March 11, 2013
While the economy continues to stumble along, and our brilliant legislators can’t quite seem to agree on a common definition of the word “compromise”, let us pause and reflect.
OK, that’s enough of that. The point is that life goes on. And on.
During this time of “on and on” I continue to write music, and Cindy continues to create her farm, and we continue to enjoy ourselves. And every day is a gift.
For instance, just this week we pulled some fence posts out of the ground to be used for the upcoming goat shed. Cindy dug a few more rows in her strawberry bed; I wrote and recorded (at least) two new songs. Then on Fridays we sit down to watch a video while eating homemade pizza. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Sometimes we turn on the radio to find out who is pointing fingers at who, and who is fighting a war against who, and who is generally making noise with their mouth without really saying anything useful. And then Cindy goes out and checks for eggs, while I get on the phone and talk with a friend who gets me laughing really hard.
So, are we that unconcerned about what’s going on in the world around us? Are we purposely ignoring events on a global scale?
No and no.
Frankly, there are two ways one can look at the world: you could see it as a constant downhill skid that started with a certain couple in a garden a long time ago or one could simply see it, as Mr. Spock said in Star Trek VI, as the universe unfolding as it should. The former can be very depressing; while with the latter one likes to think that there are always possibilities,as Captain Kirk said in Star Trek II.
Is anyone noticing a definite pattern?
OK, Tom, so is there a point to all this? No. Or maybe I should say maybe. Someone said that the problem with life is that it is so Daily. If that is so, then bring on the day!
Or put differently:
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Fa who foraze, whatever that means. Welcome, welcome New Year’s Day.
2012 was an amazing year for us. As most of you are aware, we moved. After 25 years in beautiful Chenango County, New York, we relocated to beautiful Washington County in southern Indiana in mid-July. We moved away from the tiny town of McDonough, to the equally tiny town of Vallonia.
Musically, 2012 saw the issue of my “Back in the Window” instrumental CD and the “God Bless the World” vocal CD. And I wrote 22 new pieces of music, including some anthems, some songs, and a few really unique pieces that will see the light of day later this year.
Since arriving in Indiana, I have become the choir director of First Christian Church in Salem. That’s a Disciples of Christ church, which has a lot of similarities to the United Church of Christ, where I spent the last 8 years.
On the farm, Cindy and I built the first of a series of sheds; this one being the chicken coop, wherein she maintains 3 chickens. We also have one cat that patrols the grounds: rodent control. We’ve spent a lot of time building inside too. We completely re-did the kitchen, and most of the office. The front room closet-extension is next.
This move has been really exciting, but it has its down side. We’re a lot further away from all our family and friends in NY now, however we are a lot closer to our daughter and her family, which includes our two grandchildren. We’ve already visited them near Chicago 3 times and they’ve been down here several times also.
2013: from a personal perspective, I am planning on a really fun, really productive year. From a larger POV, the world can be such a difficult place; no need to go into detail- just listen to what passes for news anymore. Despite the way things seem, I am still just enough of a 60s person to think that we could possibly make even a little step closer to Peace on Earth. I like to think that the music that I create will have its own small effect towards that lofty goal.
Happy 2013 to all my friends, fans, & family.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
I am thankful for my family: in particular, my wife of 41 years (and counting); my daughter and her own family; my mom, still going strong at 84.
I am thankful for all my family, even those who might be less then thankful about me. I am thankful for having grown up with a brother and a sister; for all the wonderful nephews and nieces that I have as a result. I am thankful for having had a dad who was also a friend and a mentor.
I am thankful for having been allowed to work at my music for all these years; and thankful for every one of the musicians with whom I played and worked, those who influenced me, those who encouraged me. Thankful for close friends: Doug Rose, Joe Connolly, and Scott B. Adams, all three of whom I have had the privilege of creating music with.
I am thankful that there are people who work hard to achieve peace in the world.
I am thankful that I have today, and the prospect of tomorrow.
I am thankful for my faith, and I am thankful because of my faith.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
In a few days, the 1962 grand epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” by David Lean, and starring Peter O’Toole and a cast of huge names (Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Arthur Kennedy), will be re-released in an all new digitized format. This movie is not only celebrating its 50th anniversary, but also celebrates the life of one of the amazing people in history.
Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in 1888; he was the son of a Lord but his father never married his mother. As World War I unfolded across Europe, there was an equally intense conflict in the Middle East, particularly centered in Arabia, Syria and Turkey. Lawrence, who had spent his early professional life as an archeologist in that geographical area, found himself as a lieutenant in the British army in the position of cartographer in Cairo. Through his archeological studies, he had also become conversant with several Arabian languages and dialects, and in 1916 was publishing an Arabic newspaper through which he tried to gain attention to the Arab struggles for freedom, not only from the Turks but from the British also.
T. E. Lawrence had a definite distaste for the limelight and for bloodshed; however, his role in the Arab Revolt covered him with both on a daily basis. He was a most reluctant hero.
During this war, Lawrence kept a journal of his thoughts and observations, and eventually published them in a book called “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” which was finally published 1926.
In 2009, after having read Seven Pillars for a second time, I was impressed with Lawrence’s use of imagery and poetic language. In homage to the Seven Pillars of the title, I chose seven particularly beautiful phrases from the text and composed instrumental music to express each short segment:
- Silences of Stars
- Off the Pilgrim Road
- Granite Spires
- The Mirage Had Begun to Dance
- The Hallowed Ground Re-echoed
- Circle Beyond Circle
- Last light of the West/Dance of the Sunbeams
These pieces, amounting to around 23 minutes of music, are collected on a CD which I also titled “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and are available through Amazon .
There is also a video presentation of section 2: Off the Pilgrim Road, on Youtube .
And although the film is somewhat fictionalized, it is amazing how much of Lawrence’s writing, and some of his dialog, are included in the context of the film. If you haven’t seen it, go see it (or get it when it’s released on DVD. If you know the film, now is a good time to watch it again.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
When we moved to Chenango County in upstate New York, there was a gentleman who regularly asked us if we were settling in…for about the first 5 or 6 years he asked us that.
Now we find ourselves in a new area, southern Indiana. We’ve been here now for about 2 months, and the answer to the question is: Yes, we are settling in.
In many ways, it’s like starting all over again from scratch. None of the acreage around the house was plowed up for a garden; much of the lawn was overgrown; there were no structures that would house any animals so we had to build one. Musically, because I know so many people all over the country, I wasn’t at so much of a loss, although having to establish my teaching studio is going to be harder than I thought. After all we were in our last location for the better part of 25 years.
The internet has been very useful in helping me find names of organizations and people; my email program has been working overtime these 8 weeks.
Composing music and working on recordings has taken a back seat to getting the homestead in working shape. In the past 2 weeks I have begun working on two songs: a new baseball song and a church anthem. It feels good to get back to it.
We have met so many really nice people out here in the Hoosier State, many of whom have helped us out in ways that surprised even us. Like for instance, how many people do you know who have two (2!!) neighbors who own backhoes with bucket loaders? It restores one’s faith in humanity.
So, yes, we continue to settle in, and continue to rebuild our rural paradise in a whole new geographical and social setting. As things unfold, and we finally break all the ties with New York, we will begin to see this Midwest reality as normal. Until then…we’re still settling in.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
There’s a song from the Musical “The Pajama Game” in which John Raitt’s character sang:
“I figured it out
With a pencil and a pad I figured it out!
Seven and a half cents doesn't buy a hell of a lot,
Seven and a half cents doesn't mean a thing!
But give it to me every hour,
Forty hours every week,
And that's enough for me to be living like a king!
I figured it out.”
(Song written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross)
(The workers at the pajama were asking for a raise, and this song carried their message.)
So what difference could 37 cents make to me? Well…I’m glad you asked.
About 3 months ago I received a Royalty statement from OCP (Oregon Catholic Press). A royalty (for those who don’t know, is a payment for use of a writer’s work; in this case a song. My friend Bobby Fisher made a recording of one of my songs on one of his CDs a while back, and because he re-wrote some of the lyrics, I receive about 75% of the available royalties for that song. That means every time OCP sells one of these CDs (“If We Dare to Hope”), I get 11 cents, and 6 cents for each copy of the song book for the album.
That royalty statement I received 3 months ago told me that I had accumulated a royalty balance of $24.95, but OCP doesn’t make any payment to artists until it’s over $25. So when a new statement arrived today showing that they had sold 3 CDs and 1 book (!!!!) I had 37 cents added to my balance, and a check for the total ($25.32) was included.
I sometimes am dazzled by the big bucks that some composers of my acquaintance must be getting. The fact is that 37 cents doesn’t mean a hell of a lot; but if I was to make 37 cents every day for the next year, the total would be over $135. Again, not a lot, but not bad for one song.
By the way, Bobby’s CD is still available If We Dare to Hope