Posts Tagged ‘life’

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

sick

I have had a head cold for the past week, but have tried to continue operating like I’m totally fine. It’s a tried and true American value to show up and do your job even when you’re sick. This illustrates how things have gone for me. “I’m fine. I took a double dose of Dayquil an hour ago.”

I am kicking off my summer with a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.”  I’ve always loved this song’s easy listening vibe paired with the bleak imagery and the palpable longing for what is already lost.  I hope I’ve done it some justice, but if you need to check out the real deal you can find it here.

I have plans in the works to record new material, but I must say I’m enjoying working on other covers.  Some of the songs I’ve got on my to-do list include “Indestructible” by Robyn, “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders and “Crazy Train” from Ozzy.  If you have any suggestions feel free to leave it in the comments.

Having just completed a busy school year of working in all types of educational settings – elementary general ed, high school special day class and non-public school, plus my own coursework in a credentialed master’s program – I am ready to take the summer off! In addition to recording new music, I hope to play some open mic nights in the bay area.   I’m also looking forward to hitting the beach, organizing my closets and perfecting my Instagram feed algorithm to achieve the perfect balance of cute baby animals, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons.  Because you have to have goals!

Hey you, it’s me! I mean it’s us. That’s right – I’m your future self at age 50. Can you believe it? Just for the record, we can totally pass for 48- so there’s that to look forward to. I just wanted to pop in and give you a little preview of your future life because I know this is a tough year for us and I want to help us get through it. Now I’m sure you have all sorts of questions about what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve ended up – like did we become a rock star? Are we married to Rick Springfield as planned? Well before I answer any of those questions there are a couple of things I want to show you.

eggo waffles

A convenient breakfast and $6.00 off a movie ticket! Who needs flying cars?

First there’s this. That’s right, it’s a box of Eggo Waffles. Check it out; you can get $6.00 off a movie ticket through a special offer on this box of waffles! Crazy, right? What I really want you to know is that where I’m from $6.00 does not even begin to cover the full cost of a movie ticket. And if you want to buy the D-Box seats that shake and move to enhance your viewing experience, you’re looking at $20 a pop. I know that’s a lot to think about all by itself, but trust me, the D-Box experience is absolutely necessary just to get through the latest Star Wars films . . . Oh yeah, they are still making Star Wars films, but I can’t get into that right now. That’s a whole other visit . . . My point here is, we may want to rethink that English degree we end up with after failing out of the recording engineering program. Oh, and don’t feel bad about failing out the recording engineering program. Two words on that one: home studios. Anyway – maybe look into computer science and  programming? Just a suggestion.

dbox

It’s like having someone kick the back of your seat, but only when there’s fighting and stuff.

 

webcam-toy-photo10

No matter how our life has turned out, it’s not too late to waste the rest of it staring at one of these babies!

Moving on – look at this. It’s a phone!! Seriously it’s my own personal phone. You know how right now our house has a phone number? Well in the future every single person has a phone number! And you just, like, carry it in your pocket wherever you go. Also . . . get this . . . you don’t actually use it to call anyone. And if it rings you ignore it – really that’s the best thing to do. Because no one you actually know wants to talk to you on the phone. Nope, it’s so much better than that – you just type little notes to each other. They’re called texts, but the word text is also a verb now – text, texting, texted. Don’t think too hard about it. But check it out – this phone is also a camera and a video recorder and a tape recorder! Now how much would you pay?  Heh.  That’s totally rhetorical; you can’t even imagine how much I paid for this. But, but . . . I can watch movies on it too! Seriously, real movies. Not here of course because cell service hasn’t even been invented yet.  What do you think of that, huh? You’ll have one of these in the future. Cool, right? Oh yeah, the screen is cracked. It’s fine. Really, it’s fine. I can’t afford to get it fixed at the moment. . .

So um – that whole rock star / Rick Springfield thing . . . I can tell you that you do move to California. We live near the ocean. It’s really cool and downright cold, occasionally. We’re in Northern California. It’s like 64 degrees and windy every day of the year. I think I’ve worn a bathing suit to the beach twice in the 20 years I’ve been here.

img_1630

Within driving distance and better than Wildwood, NJ!

So Rick Springfield? Yeah, we meet him a couple of times, and his mom and his wife, too. Guess I just gave that answer away.

But we never, ever give up on music despite our best judgment. And we play lots of live shows – so many. You will be so sick of lugging all that equipment everywhere, I mean I am most of the time,  but we keep going . . . In fact you’ll be on stage at midnight the night you turn 50. It will just be a small club in San Francisco, but . . . the important thing is we never, ever give up on music.

There’s a lot more – more than you can imagine, but I’ll let that stay a mystery. Can’t ruin everything, can I? But really, take some computer classes . . . and you’re totally gonna love this phone.

My last post was nearly 3 years ago. . . 2016: the year David Bowie died;  the year DJT was elected president; the year I decided it was time to do something different with my life.  The first two items from my very-cherry-picked list of 2016 events were terrible occurrences, but the third, deciding to doing something different with my life, was a good thing.  I had been banging my head against a wall for at least a year trying to make something happen for my band, Shot in the Dark, and the universe just wasn’t buying it.  It was a moment of reckoning between reality and every piece of advice you pick up as a child when they talk about following your dreams:  if you really try, if you love it, if you really want it, it you work hard, it will happen for you.  I want to say something snarky about how I must have been sick the day they added, “also, you should probably be young, attractive and have talent,”  but I’m going to let it go. Yep, letting that go.

So in 2016 I enrolled at the local community college in classes for early childhood education with an emphasis on special education.  I  enjoyed the classes and when the semester was over I applied for a job at a non-public school for students with moderate-to-severe disabilities.  This was a huge step for me as I hadn’t been officially employed for almost 16 years.  I got an interview and was offered the job on the spot.  And what a job!  This was a population of students I’d never worked with before despite all my years volunteering at my sons’ schools.  Everything about the job was new and exciting and occasionally unpredictable.  I felt I had found a place I belonged and could make a small difference in the world. And that was what has brought me here to January 2019, where I am now in a credentialed master’s program for special education while working part time at a school district. 

And I’m feeling less certain about having found my place.

As if on cue, Music, like a long absent ex, shows back up on my doorstep asking to just hang out for a bit, you know just to catch up.  And so here I am with more music, hoping 2019 can be a year of balance and happiness for me personally.  I can’t comment on what’s going down with the rest of the world.

Before my break I was all about synthesizers and drum machines and production. Now I’m concentrating more on an acoustic sound and live performance. Check out the video and let me know what you think!

 

Tree Fort

It’s Sunday morning around 3 AM. I’m sitting on the couch at a friend’s house, savoring the last beer of the evening,  still glowing from the show my band played at a local bar just five hours prior. My friends and I may be middle-aged but we are giggling like school girls. Our kids are elsewhere, sleeping and safe, and we are talking about everything . . . movies, men, our mothers, life. I know I will pay dearly for this venture into the youthful territory of pre-dawn revelry –particularly in a few hours when my family will look to me to be the functional, dependable mother and wife who will make breakfast, but for now I feel like a teenager.   The deep, intense friendship we are enacting, the underlying sense of possibility that permeates the night all takes me back to the summer after high school graduation when the future was unknowable, but the mystery seemed overwhelmingly in my favor. Good things have happened and therefore more good things could happen. Summer has just begun. “The future’s open wide.”

It’s Wednesday afternoon around 3 PM. I’m standing in a darkened room next to the bed of a dying woman. We have known each other for ten years. She is the mother of my oldest son’s one-time best friend. Together we have endured and enjoyed countless play dates, some which ended well and some which ended in tears (the children’s, not ours). The friendship between our sons fizzled out a few years back, but she and her family have remained regular attendees at our New Year’s Eve parties, including this past New Year’s Eve when she shuffled into my kitchen, thin and frail, to take her usual place the table with all my friends. Her presence made the party feel complete. But now she turns her head towards me, her eyes flutter open and fix upon me for a moment before looking away. We know each other well enough for her to say, with the most emphasis she can muster, “This sucks!” Already she is tired and drifting off again and we have run out of things to say. “Take care,” I tell her, “I’ll catch you later.”

It’s Thursday morning around 4 AM. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. My youngest son has a headache and a fever of 104.6. My husband is rocking him in the recliner. I have administered Tylenol and placed a cold pack on his forehead. We have been fighting this fever since the early evening. The advice nurse told me everything is fine as long as it stays below 105 degrees. I’m worried – not really worried, but still worried. Life takes detours; one moment changes everything. What comes next remains unknowable. You hear stories all the time.

It’s Thursday morning around 10 AM. My son’s fever is down, not gone, but back to around 100. He’s feeling better and acting more like himself.

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside, an anomalous warm and sunny day for our coastal Northern California town. I step out on the deck and feel the warmth rise up from the sun-heated boards. There’s not a hint of cold, even the icy sea breeze that often threads itself through the usual spring-like temperatures of our climate is still.  Summer!

“Come outside,” I tell my son. “It’s beautiful out here.”

Still in his pajamas, he follows me across the deck to the weather-beaten settee and sits on my lap. Instinctively we both close our eyes and turn our faces towards the light.

“Sometimes,” I say, more to myself than to him, “all you have is the warmth of the sun on your face. And sometimes it’s enough.”

He lays his head on my shoulder.  I have not felt this content in days.