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Posted by on Apr 16, 2013 in Recordings |

The Flying Dream CD

In the late 90’s and early 00’s, I recorded a number of song demos for promotion to music publishers. Around ’02, I compiled the recordings into a CD, Flying Dream.

I’ve burned, sold and given away hundreds of these CDs over the years. Last year, I decided it was time to give my poor CD burner a break and release Flying Dream for real. I asked my friend Cher Odum if she would do the cover art. Cher has known and loved my music for a long time (I gave her one of the first ones ten years ago). She was inspired, and spent two days painting a beautiful cover in her unique style.

FD Art

I’m proud to announce that Flying Dream is now available in physical form from CD Baby, and as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon, and the rest of the usual suspects. All the sites have previews so you can hear before you buy. The 13 songs are available separately too.

A few highlights:

  • Flying Dream is four part a cappella harmony, with me singing all the parts.
  • Driving is inspired by my many beautiful trips to Whidbey Island in Washington State and has a rare electric guitar solo.
  • The Cove is my love song for the beaches of California’s Central Coast, and for one beach in particular, and for my dear friends who love it too.

Snooze Alarm, It’s Your Fault, I Could Fall In Love With You … each song has its own flavor and personality. I recorded all the instruments and parts, mostly in my little guest house in San Luis Obispo.

Songs are bookmarks that open our memories to particular pages, as effectively as the scent of a madeleine cookie. Many times, over the years, someone has told me of their experience with one of these songs, how they cried or were influenced, how it marked a page. Every once in a while someone asks me if I’ll burn another one because they wore the old one out. Mighty gratifying. I hope you get a chance to hear it too, and that it brings you joy.

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Posted by on Feb 17, 2013 in The Lattice, The Notes | 0 comments

Extending the lattice

As I’ve analyzed my songs on the lattice, and written new music using it as a tool, I have found that I have a certain palette of notes in my mind, a territory of the lattice that I can hear and think with. The notes in this portion are distinct individuals for me. Each one has its own personality, a distinct mix of attraction, repulsion, beauty and function. I’ve described and given examples of many of them.

When I wrote Flying Dream in 1981, I was consciously trying to write a song that used all twelve notes of the chromatic scale. The first part of making the Flying Dream animation was to reverse-engineer my own song, figuring out with my new tool (the lattice) what I had been instinctively hearing at the time.

220px-Crayola-64It turned out that I had been hearing about 18 notes in the song, including blue notes, and notes up in the northern part of the lattice. That made sense. I remember, as a kid, being disappointed to find out that there were only 12 total notes in music to work with. It seemed to limit the possibilities, like being stuck with the 8-color Crayola box.

The music I love to listen to, and make, has the big 64-color box with built-in sharpener. What’s up with Mick Jagger’s “Oooooh,” at the beginning of Gimme Shelter, or that guitar lick in Dizzy Miss Lizzy? These notes can’t be found on the piano, unless you have a pitch bend wheel. Check out this clip of Ray Charles bending notes in 2000 — now there’s a use of technology! The mystery of those notes, and others like them, has stuck with me, and now I feel like I’m getting to know them as friends.

Next: Another Major Second: The 10/9

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Posted by on Jan 13, 2013 in Recordings | 0 comments

A couple of good recordings

Jody Mulgrew and I are putting together a few shows in the next few months, and for rehearsals, I’ve been recording versions of some of my songs. Jody and I blend like brothers, so the emphasis is on the harmonies. I especially like the way Flying Dream and Breakup Songs came out. That’s me singing the high part. I’m so looking forward to performing these with my friend. First show is at Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo, on February 8. FileItem-57643-SteynbergGallery_fullWe’ll also be playing Bazaar Cafe in San Francisco on March 9. Here are the demos:

Breakup Songs BS Jody 2-8

Flying Dream FD Jody 2-8

Enjoy! If you’d like to be updated about these and other shows, please let me know through the contact page, and I’ll put you on the email list. I send something out a few times a month.

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in The Lattice | 4 comments

The Lattice

In 1739, the great mathematician Leonhard Euler published something he called a Tonnetz, German for “tone network.” It looked like this:

Euler’s Tonnetz organizes the notes into a matrix, instead of a scale. Moving down and to the left represents motion by an interval of a fifth (V) in musical space. Down and to the right shows movement by a major third (III).

The lattice has been rediscovered and redrawn many times over the years. One of my favorites is the Duodenarium of Alexander Ellis, which showed up in his appendix to Helmholtz’s pioneering book, On the Sensations of Tone, in the late 1800’s.

Now we’re talkin’! C is at the center. The fifths go up and down, and thirds from left to right, leading to a square grid.

One of W. A. Mathieu’s innovations in Harmonic Experience is to slant the axes and make them line up with the musical staff:

Seriously, if this blog interests you, please get a copy of this book. I have no stake in you doing this, except that I believe the more broadly understood this man’s work is, the more great music will be made.

I’ve been messing around with the lattice for a year and a half now, and I’ve morphed it into a form that suits my own musical work.

Further slanting the thirds axis to 60 degrees makes it a hexagonal lattice, and for me the relationships between the notes become more intuitive. The major chord is now, appropriately, a stable-looking triangle. And a new axis appears, northwest to southeast: movement by minor thirds. I follow Mathieu’s example and show this one with a dotted line, because it isn’t a direct move: the minor third is a third down and a fifth up, a compound move on the lattice — a major (sorry) insight into the nature of the minor third. Much more on that one later.

Japanese mathematician Shohé Tanaka drew a hexagonal tone lattice in the 1800’s. I haven’t been able to find a picture.

Movement to the right represents multiplication by 3, that is, up a fifth. Up and to the right means you’ve multiplied by 5, up a major third. Left means division by 3, down a fifth. Down left is division by 5, down a major third. The tonic, 1, is at the center (below left of center in this portion). The grid goes out to infinity. This is the region encompassed by Flying Dream, which in fact covers most of the territory I’ve found useful so far, a major reason I chose that song for the video.

Next: The Tonic Major Chord

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Posted by on Nov 8, 2012 in Background, Just Intonation, The Lattice | 2 comments

Harmonic Experience

Over the next series of posts, I’m going to explain how the lattice in the Flying Dream video works. Before I do, I want to take time to mention a terrific book.

I started investigating just intonation in earnest in early 2011. A couple of months in, my friend Kay Ashley loaned me her copy of Harmonic Experience, by W. A. Mathieu. Thank you so much, Kay!

I spent a few weeks with Kay’s copy and very soon knew I had to have my own. I devoured the book almost daily for at least a year. I still pull it out often, lug it to a cafe for browsing over breakfast, do bibliomancy with it if I’m stuck creatively, take it on vacations.

Harmonic Experience is the only music theory book I’ve read so far that actually increases my understanding of music, rather than obfuscating it. It’s huge, which could be intimidating. But I found it to be immediately accessible and entertaining. Mathieu has a great, light sense of humor. The concepts are introduced at a beautiful pace. And the ideas he presents are enlightening. “Aha” experiences abound.

Much of what I’ll present in this blog is heavily influenced and inspired by Mathieu. The lattice itself goes back to Euler in the 1700’s, but Mathieu expands on the idea enormously, arranging it so it corresponds to traditional musical staff notation, using it as a means to understand equal temperament, harmony, melody, chord progressions, world music, and much more.

Mathieu uses the term “positional analysis” to describe his system. For me, positional analysis opens the black box. It shows what’s happening in there. When my music is informed by the lattice, it makes more sense. I have more control over the effect it has on me and my audience. And it’s way more fun, because I know more about what I’m doing and why, rather than flailing around finding good sounds by instinct. And when I do compose by instinct (which is essential), I understand better why it sounds good, and can expand on my inspirations in a rewarding way.

‘Nuff said! If music theory has been frustrating for you in the past, as it has been for me, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Next: Between the Keys

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