Archive for the ‘music’ Category

My  shelter in place breakdown has become an existential crisis.  I’ve been creative and producing and releasing and it’s like screaming into the void.  If I make art and no one is there to receive it, is it art?  Actually, if I make art and there are people there to receive it, the question will resound even greater – is it art?

So, it is in this state of mind that I bring you my latest concept, inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

The 9 Levels of Artistic Success (as conceived by someone who never made it past level 3)

(ps. The art I’m referring to refers to a number of disciplines including music, visual arts, writing, etc. so don’t feel excluded.  We can all fail together.)

9 levels of artistic success

Level 1  – Polite encouragement from friends and family: Your initial attempts aren’t groundbreaking or breathtaking, but you might get better . . .  so friends and family may encourage you with delicately fashioned compliments like: “Wow, you’re so creative!”  and  “I like this one better than your last one.”

Level 2 – Absolute silence and avoidance from everyone:  You haven’t gotten better and you haven’t stopped.  Hopefully you’ll figure it out soon but until then friends and family will give polite acknowledgement only under pressure and total strangers will put you on ignore.

Level 3 – Light derision from fellow artists of similar talent or position:  They’ve gone through levels one and two as well and who do you think you are?  Maybe you keep bumping into each other on the same bill or have mutual friends, but they want you to know they admire your tenacity but they’d be lying if they said they’re into what you do.

Level 4 – Casual encouragement from lower level achievers with slightly more success than you and nothing to lose by encouraging you:   They’re not much further up the ladder than you, but it’s a big step – like going from elementary school to middle school.  Maybe they’re genuinely like what you’re doing or maybe it’s a sympathy nod – but they make an effort of encouragement and it means something.

Level 5 – Emphatic praise from people with less success than you hoping to receive similar encouragement from the lower level achievers:  It’s called networking.

Level 6 – Acknowledgement from higher level achievers based on the emphatic praise from the people with less success: They’ve heard of you, they think . . . they’re pretty sure they’ve heard of you.  Cool.

Level 7 – Positive interest from a general audience (not artists) based on the acknowledgement from a higher level achiever:  If those really cool people have heard of you, you must be worthwhile! (Things can go terribly wrong here.  You actually have to have a little something going on at this point otherwise, return to Level 3 and regroup).

Level 8 – Acclaim based on the positive interest from the general audience:  Cool people have heard of you, regular people have heard of you – it may take a little while for people to like what you do, but it’s supposed to be good and people will look for the good in something that is supposed to be good.

Level 9  -Wide spread derision as a backlash to acclaim:  Who the hell do you think you are?  Why are people even giving you any attention?  Lots of people can do what you do and do it better.  Congratulations – you suck!

So there you have it, my take on artistic success in 9 levels.  Am I on to something? Let me know.

And check out my latest Soundcloud track : Undivided Attention   Don’t let me languish at level 2!

At first I thought  with all this free time on my hands getting an entry together for this year’s Tiny Desk Contest would be easy, a welcome distraction. But I was wrong  and you may understand why better than I did.  I hadn’t come to terms with  the exhaustion of the sameness of each day, or the underlying anxiety of the situation which feels like a grounding hum I can’t stop or tune out.  It wears a person out after a while.  And I do feel worn out – and also shut out.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

During the first couple of weeks of Shelter in Place I turned to Facebook to feel more connected.   It did help for a while, but in time my news feed seemed to consist of a lot of  “big idea” posts – personal philosophies, positive affirmations, and  memes – the same memes over and over again.  I began to think about how weird it is we’ve all gotten used to broadcasting to an online audience.  I started to wonder if the people who post frequently are lonely – if this is their way of reaching out? Or maybe they just like to be “liked”.

Either way, I now make it a point to reach out to people individually – ask how they are doing and let them know I’m still here for them.  I’ve been lucky to have a good friend who texts me on a regular basis just to check in.   It’s always good to hear from her and  knowing she’s still thinking about me  lifts my spirits. I want to pass that good will on.   And that’s where this song came from – my desire to connect on a more personal level with some of my online friends.

So here is the 2020 NPR Tiny Desk Contest entry I pulled together yesterday, two days before the deadline.  The song is called “Undivided Attention”.  Thanks for listening!

Undivided Attention

Tell me something real
Something only you would say
Don’t need to be clever or wise
Don’t let ego get in the way

You have so much to share
And you’re reaching out again
I’m never sure if you’re looking for
An audience or a friend

And what I have to give
Is something very small and something very big
Don’t need to sell me on your higher intentions
Just speak to me
Speak to me
Speak just to me
You have my undivided attention

I know what it’s like
When you’re longing to be heard
You shout your lofty aspirations to the world
And time swallows every word

So come down from your tower
And speak to me direct
One on one we’ll find common ground
Maybe we can reconnect

And what I have to give
Is something very small and something very big
Don’t need to sell me on your higher intentions
Just speak to me
Speak to me
Speak just to me
You have my undivided attention

copyright 2020 Paula Boyd Sutor

 

You can be a patron of the arts! Doesn’t that sound sophisticated?

During this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders (which I heartily endorse) musicians are losing out on income because bars and clubs have closed down. Bandcamp is trying to help out by waiving their revenue fee tomorrow – Friday, March 20th. That means 100% of the money you pay for the music goes to the artist. You can read all about it here:https://daily.bandcamp.com/fea…/bandcamp-covid-19-fundraiser

Now is a great time to discover new music and support artists who may be struggling financially. Here’s some recommendations to get you started. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Karina Denike
https://karinadenike.bandcamp.com/

About: Karina Denike is a S.F. songstress, chanteuse, arranger and songwriter who sings her way across many genres of music. Her original tunes are a haunting combo of 30’s seaside shanties, 60’s girl group harmony and noir soundtracks. You may also know her voice from her other groups: Dance Hall Crashers, The Cottontails, Mr. Lonesome & The Bluebelles, Ralph Carney’s serious jass Project and many more.

My take: You will fall in love with Karina’s voice the first time you hear it. “Golden Kimonos” is my favorite track off her album, Under Glass.

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Lily Taylor
https://lilytaylor.bandcamp.com/

My take: I discovered Lily Taylor through her work with Karina Denike. Her music is beautiful and experimental and showcases her lush vocals.

Deborah Crooks
https://deborahcrooks.bandcamp.com/

About: California-based songwriter Deborah Crooks’ music draws on folk, rock, and the Blues. Her diverse, ever-evolving artistic path has included studying writing and poetics at The Naropa Institute, voice in India, co-founding the band Bay Station, and gigging throughout the Western US.

My take: Poignant Americana, reminiscent of Lucinda Williams

Eki Shola
https://ekishola.bandcamp.com/

About: A talented vocalist and pianist, Eki Shola’s music transcends genre, as she seamlessly draws from jazz, electronica, and world to create her own sonic landscape. Her music has been described as “…sound art to be used to trigger thought and encourage love and beauty through rhythm and unique composition.”
Her personal story was featured in a PBS TV special, “The New Normal: Visions of Healing”

My take: Beautiful, genre-defying music that blends jazz and electronica.

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Little Spiral
https://littlespiral.bandcamp.com/

About: a.k.a. Suzanne Yada, is a piano-pop singer-songwriter who writes at the intersection of technology and heart. She mixes her indie pop, classical, blues and electronic influences with her background in poetry, media and the internet to create clever little piano pop songs for the digital age. Fans of Tori Amos, Mary Lambert, Fiona Apple & Regina Spektor will feel right at home.

My take: Thought provoking lyrics and mad piano skills.

Eu4ic
https://eu4ic.bandcamp.com/

About: In the 2010’s, a post-religion woman muses over our day and age to deep, hypnotic soundscapes, beats and big basslines.

My take: Shimmering beats, lovely vocals and introspective lyrics.

Raven State
https://ravenstate.bandcamp.com/

About: Raven State is a guitar-driven rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area with the spirit of The Stooges and patience of Pink Floyd. At times haunting and atmospheric, pop hooks combined with soulful harmonies keep the dark, hopeless melodies from destroying the future in the hearts of mankind. Their self-titled debut EP is available now. Enjoy.

My take: The Pink Floyd influence is strong in this band!

Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday seemed like the perfect time for this song although I no longer observe the tradition. Fun fact: where I’m from (Pennsylvania Dutch country) it’s called Fastnacht Day.

The song is about saying good bye to something that was fun but probably not good for you, and convincing yourself you’re fine with that.

I got extra fancy for the video by breaking out the glitter eye make up and let me tell you – that stuff is not easily removed! I will be dazzling my co-workers for the rest of the week despite all my best efforts

As always, thanks for watching!

 

 

Good Time

I don’t think about you that much anymore

I just don’t think about you that much anymore

Though we had such good times

Everybody likes good times

I know you always hoped it might be something more

But I am certain there is nothing to explore

Though we had such good times

Everybody likes good times

Every day is a parade

And every night is a celebration

But when the party’s over tell me

Where is our foundation?

There’ll be good times

There’ll be bad times

You don’t get to pick or choose

If you can’t hold me through the sad times

Baby, we’re gonna lose

So I don’t think about you that much anymore

I just don’t think about you – no

Though we had such good times

Everybody likes good times

We had such good times

Everybody likes good times

We had such good times

But they were just good times

And now they’re through

I’m over you

 

copyright Paula Sutor 2018

worldview changing

I came across this short article on HuffPost last night: Finneas Reveals Hidden Sounds In ‘Bad Guy’ And Our Worldview Is Changed and I could not resist writing a response.

The gist of the article is that Billie Eillish’s brother, Finneas, who produced her Grammy award winning album, revealed he subtly incorporated sound recordings of every day occurrences/items into the music. Examples given in the article include the sound of dental equipment and a crosswalk warning signal.

My first thought was – what has journalism come to? This is an article summarizing a TV interview that’s been given a sensationalized headline (Worldview changing?!?! Really?!?) just to entice people to click on it. (And I did!) But then the author declared Finneas’ method of using these every day recordings as genius and I thought: “Damn! I must be a genius too!”

Now, it’s true I never swept the Grammys so I guess I’m not quite on the same level as Finneas and his sister, but I have been using recordings of everyday items in my music for a long time and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first or last musician/producer to do that. In fact a quick web search will turn up many articles like this one giving details on unlikely sounds that have been used in pop songs in recent years.

I want to make it clear I’m not dissing Billie Eillish and her brother at all. I really liked “Bury a Friend” and “Bad Guy” the first 100 or so times I heard them and I also appreciate that she has achieved this level of success by bringing a whole new style to the table and not showing off her body. No, I just think the framing of the article was ridiculous and I’m using that ridiculousness as a jumping off point to make it about me – because I’m pretty sure that’s how the internet works these days.

So without further ado, here are three times I was a “genius” and used everyday recordings in my music.

“So Bad” – a copy machine

I found volunteering at my son’s school highly creative work and here’s proof: around 0:08, there’s two claps followed  by a sound like a phased drum; that’s the copy machine at my son’s elementary school recorded while making copies for the book fair.

“Body”  – a washing machine

The song begins with a drum roll and rhythm beneath the drum roll that continues throughout the song.  That rhythm is the sound of the washing machine at my friend Gina’s house.   Lucky for me, Gina does a lot of laundry even when she has house guests – had she not I probably would not have been inspired to write this song about David Bowie’s passing.

“Fan Fic” – a breast pump

 

Ah – my old Roland SP-555 sampler!  I loved that thing and I sold it thinking I was trading up to a better piece of equipment and I wasn’t.  I miss it so much!

Anyway – this song is at least ten years old and I had just come through a  year or so of occasionally pumping breast milk for my son.  The sound the pump made was unique and I started hearing voices in it – like singing voices, not like voices telling me to do things.  In this clip at the 30 second mark (after I finish pushing the “I play a sexy serial killer” button far too  many times) I hit the drums and a loop of the breast pump sound.  To me it sounds like voices singing “usha-may   usha-may  usha-may”.  Sadly this sound loop did not make it to the final recording of the song years later.

So there you have it, my favorite moments of “genius” from my songs.  If you have your own to add or know of other songs that use interesting sounds feel free to leave a reply!

 

 

Last week I logged in to Facebook and was instantly clobbered with some information that in all honesty means nothing to me. It has zero impact on my relationship with my husband, my relationship with my children, my job, my education, or my health; it has absolutely no bearing on anything important in my life. And yet it hit me. It hit me so hard that I bled out this song in 20 minutes.

I have to be honest, it’s been a long time since I just kind of zinged out a song at that speed. Part of the expedited songwriting process involved ignoring my inner critic who kept telling me it was derivative and melodramatic. Instead, I wanted to see if I could write with the same urgency I had when I was young . I also wanted to express the feelings you get when something you were certain you had gotten over swiftly proves you wrong.

Ultimately the song is a bit melodramatic and most likely comes from the place of a bruised ego – thus the strong emotions – but I’m grateful I was able to sit with my feelings and express them rather than keep them tamped down. I think we tend to do that as we get older and it feels much better to just get it out there. Is it an earth shattering work illuminating the human condition? Nah – not really, but it’s how I felt at the moment. I’m gonna go with that.

Also, I want to add that even though the vocal performance is not stellar (I have never liked my voice and life experience has shown me I’m not alone in that) I’m very grateful to be taking voice lessons again. This time I’m approaching my voice as an instrument, learning about it, putting in some work and practice. I can already hear and feel the benefits. The greatest benefit for me at the moment is not feeling pain and tension in my throat when I sing.

Even though I’m not sure how much of a future this song has in my repertoire, I’m still happy to have taken the time to write and perform it. And if you’ve ever had that moment when an old wound opens up unexpectedly and you recognize that it still hurts, this is for you.

Still Hurts

It was something not meant to be
Didn’t work out, at least not for me
And in the thick of it I tore myself apart
Thought I could make it mine with only my will
It pushed back hard, I’ve got the bruises still
And all the while I swore I was following my heart

And I’m better now
I don’t know how
Cause it chewed me up and spit me out
I landed hard but I made it through the worst
And I’m stronger now
I don’t know how
It politely ripped my insides out
I’m passed that all
Just now and then it still really hurts

If you work hard and you truly believe
There is nothing you can’t achieve
That’s what I heard, guess I heard it wrong
And it’s still there so big and so bright
I will never know what it’s really like
So I find my own path and move along

And I’m better now
I don’t know how
Cause it chewed me up and spit me out
I landed hard but I made it through the worst
And I’m stronger now
I don’t know how
It politely ripped my insides out
I’m passed that all
Just now and then it still really hurts

copyright 2020 P. Sutor

Young Gods and Fresh Horses

Posted: September 9, 2019 in music
Tags: , , ,

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I offered myself up to the movie gods and I said give me a story to tell

I wasn’t blessed with the face of saint or the voice of an angel

And I am not here to ride in this rodeo, though I’ve tried, lord knows I’ve tried

There’s no going back, guess I’m moving on – give me

Young gods and fresh horses to ride

There’s a season to sow and there’s one to reap, but on a day off in between

You might take a step back and decide you need to know what it means

And you will search everywhere just to find yourself, but truth is truth don’t hide

I’m through with that trip, let’s get on with it – give me

Young gods and fresh horses to ride

Ain’t no reason to let it go just yet

Ain’t no reason to take it slow, you bet

You better make a move, you better do it soon

Each fading breath reminds you

The best of your days might be behind you

I offered myself up to the movie gods and I said give me a story to sell

The seeds of my youth did not produce all that well

And I have traveled on the tides of my shifting desires

thinking time was on my side

It’s too late to win, it’s too soon to quit – give me

Young gods and fresh horses to ride

© 2019 – Paula Sutor