Posts Tagged ‘music’

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

On August 25th I’ll be trying my hand at live performance again.  Playing solo shows has been a mixed bag for me.  My brain slows everything down to a sickeningly slow pace as my inner critic steps up to narrate in excruciating detail every wrong move I’m about to make: “Here comes the chord change . . . quick, what key are you in?  You don’t even know, do you?  Which chord are we playing – B or B minor?  B or B minor?  B or . . . oh it should have been minor!  Did you even practice?”  Sometimes my brain just breaks it down in terms of probability: “76 keys, 10 fingers, average of four to six notes played at once in varying tempos and patterns. What are the odds of you hitting all the correct notes in the correct sequence for half an hour?  Pretty low.”

So I’ve started  to visualize being in front of an audience while practicing.  What amazes me is even in the privacy of my own practice space, just thinking about people watching me makes my playing considerably worse.  So I’ve begun looking at the way I practice to make sure it’s effective and I’ve also started researching techniques to get past this performance anxiety.

A lot of the techniques I’ve read about are for public speaking and focus on keeping the body calm (which is important), but I came across one list specific to performance and I have found it really helpful.  Carmi Levy, a senior writer at voices.com,  offers these 8 tips, originally published here. Even though this list is geared towards acting, I feel it can also be applied to singing/songwriting performance;  compelling musical performance conveys emotion and often tells a story.

1. Remember who the performer is. The audience is there to see or hear you. And only you. It’s your gift, your expertise, your unique ability to make the role yours that got them out of the house on a rainy night. Of all the people in the room at that moment, you’re the one who knows more about this character, this performance, this work, than anyone else. Let your mastery of the moment be your guide.

2. Forget the stakes. You could be in front of 20 people in a repertory theater or thousands in the most prestigious of performing arts facilities. In the end, they’re all the same. Too many performers allow the supposed importance of the performance, of the night, of the people in attendance, to affect their mindset. Don’t. See above: You and you alone are the key performer. Whether they’re wearing tuxes and gowns or overalls and sundresses is irrelevant. The audience doesn’t matter. You do.

3. Performance over audience. In a related vein, what you’re delivering matters far more than who you’re delivering it to. Maintain focus on your performance, to the exclusion of all and everyone else, and you’ll be well-insulated from any audience-related fears. That said, if you find it helpful to make eye contact with a few friendly members of the audience, follow your heart and make that connection early on. Some performers find it helpful to get that little bit of extra visual feedback and support.

4. Be a temporary broadcaster. Television and radio are excellent proving grounds for actors and other stage and performance professionals, because they allow you to practice your craft without the physical distraction of a visible audience. I know it sounds overly simplistic, but getting some studio time with a camera or a microphone can help you develop the mindset that can teach you to naturally ignore whoever’s in the room so you can focus on your performance. Spend enough time staring into an unblinking red light, the theory goes, and you’ll never even know who’s sitting behind the bright lights after you transition to a real stage.

5. Practice like you mean it. The deadliest mistake performers can make involves never feeling the weight of a performance before they have to deliver it for real. If you don’t perform at full volume, at full cadence, and in the venue where you’ll be delivering it, your body and mind will never have the chance to feel what it’s like, or to adapt to the very different reality of a live, in-person performance. Reading your lines at half-volume into your bedroom mirror doesn’t count. Replicate the intended space as closely as possible, and get used to the unique cues associated with practicing as if you’re actually performing.

6. Visualize your mistakes. It may seem ridiculous to pre-plan your errors, but expecting the worst is good practice for managing yourself when the inevitable occurs. Because, let’s face it, you will make mistakes. My recommendation: Don’t even call them mistakes or errors. Accept the fact that they’ll happen, and instead focus on how you’ll instantly respond to ensure you can continue with a smooth and consistent performance. Set up specific speedbumps within your practice sessions to help you learn, innately, how to roll with the punches. By the time you get to a live performance, none of this will seem like much of a big deal at all.

7. Slow down. We tend to speed things up when we’re nervous, which can increase the likelihood of tripping over our own tongues. Or worse. To counter this, use clocks, timers, or even metronomes during rehearsals to control your speed and force your brain to keep to a workable pace.

8. Buffer the performance. Try to put as much time and psychological space as possible between the real world and any given performance. Arrive at the venue early—and preferably either alone or accompanied by supporters who understand why you need your space. Settle in slowly and disconnect from those around you. Turn your smartphone and related electronics off. Use the time to review your lines or notes, have your favourite non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage and get into your performance mindset. Over time, build personal rituals that make sense to you and help you achieve comfort and balance before you’re scheduled to perform.

What I really appreciate about this list is the emphasis on performance as a craft and an art.  Remembering that I’m the performer, I’m there to be watched as I deliver my music, that’s my focus for my upcoming show.  In the past I’ve tried to downplay my role in my solo performance as a way to stave off my anxiety and it didn’t work.  I also hope to stay mindful of  number 3, performance over audience.  I’ve often tried to tailor my delivery to the audience based on the number of people there (ex. “oh – there’s only a few people, I will be super casual like I’m your friend playing in your living room”), and again it diminished the performance.

If you have any tips for overcoming stage fright/performance anxiety, I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, if you happen to be in the bay area on August 25th, please don’t come to this show because it will  make me super nervous! Ha!

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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!