Posts Tagged ‘#harmony’

Years ago when I was still learning to play guitar; I know, we are always learning! In this piece, my great friend and musical soul mate Tom Robinson is playing guitar and singing. I play around with the harmony, not knowing exactly where this song is going as we play off each other’s ideas as the song ends. This is another very basic living room recording but I simply love the song and the textures we created around the basic outline of the song. I hope you enjoy it as well. There are a number of inside jokes and references people might not totally understand, but I don’t think that will interfere too much.When I contacted them recently for correct song credits the answers were definite with options available for future adjustments. Tom Gorman and Tom Robinson [for all intents and purposes…] wrote the lyrics. Music by Tom Robinson. For a little more history I will include a portion of the conversation for historic kicks and giggles.

(Co-authors) Tom Gorman to Tom Robinson:

It was I July or Aug of 77 at your apartment. ….. Your stereo wasn’t working, and you were tinkering with it. You began to make progress and said “We got the capability . . .” For whatever reason, that inspired me, and I wrote most of the words to the song, including most of the refrain. ….. You came up with the lines about (mutual friends). I had written “We’ve got to feed our habits now” but couldn’t think of anything else. You changed “habits” to “rabbits” and added the line about rounding up the steer. At a later point, you put it to music and added “Thinkin’ about our doodely doom” and “weekend in the womb.” You also gave it the title “The Round-up.” The illegal beer was the Millers that (we) managed to score on a Sunday when it was illegal to sell it on Sunday.

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With your help and a lot of other social groups and individuals, we have helped raise money to help my friend John try to recover from the house fire that happened while he was away.  He still has not been able to get home to see the damage and to make plans for the immediate future.  I really want to thank all of you for great comments, spreading the word and financial support.   My guess is a number of people that do not know him offered support in a number of different ways.  I am frankly proud and grateful of the way this blog community responded.  Thank you again!

As many of you know I have been a musician for many years and met John when he was hired to work at the same music store I worked in.  It is kind of funny as you get older you can talk of personal experiences in terms of DECADES!!   Just saying.

Back on track, I wanted to give you an idea of the damage from the fire and the amazing group of local friends that organized without instruction and worked extremely hard to recover as many personal belongings as we could – and the restoration work that continues; and frankly, is really just at the beginning of that phase.  I wanted to give you a picture.  But we all know that is impossible.  You cannot describe the lobbies in Las Vegas hotels or what it feels like in the middle of the ocean to someone that has never been there.   We try.   We get close.   They get the idea, but until you have similar experiences it can be hard to know what those and many other things in life are truly like.

I have been to his house but I still do not have the big picture.  The closest I can get is reliving the feeling I had when I came home from one of those rescue missions…..  I walked up to my front door and as I started to put the key in the lock I thought;  what if all of this is gone?  In the difference of a day…….  Memories gone.      Pictures gone.      Music gone.        Furniture gone.     Everything.   Gone.

With those thoughts in mind and my keys in my hand, I wrote this song.  I thank all of you for sharing, in so many ways.   And while I am at it, thank you for allowing us to share with you.

http://www.gofundme.com/johnvaneaton

https://midimike.com/2015/07/11/please-help-spread-the-word/ 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/retrograde/id962542260

It may take a few times through listening to this one.  A number of my songs might seem quite alien at first.  I hope you let them grow on you.  (OK, that sounded kinda creepy LOL!) This is a textured song where I did all the sequencing and drum programming.  There are no guitars on this song.  Most of this is Atari days using the Proteus 1 tone generator an the RX 15 drum machine.  I also use sounds straight from the keyboard(s) I use as controllers.   In this case it is the Korg Trinity V3.  Other than the vocals, everything is recorded via MIDI and plays back live sounds from the keyboards and tone generators (along with effects and other goodies).   From start to finish this is a dark piece.  Sparse percussion with a rolling sequenced bass line.  You have heard my wife before on “All Night Long” and “What I do at Night” and this is another one of her gems.  The intro and break vocals are from Phyllis Ann, who toured with The Personal Touch and sang on “The Touch” and “Our Bodies Move.”   As the song begins I try to use multiple melody lines in various instrument voicings to lay the chordal structure.  Plucky guitar sounds come from the Korg.  Slow trance – lulling you closer.   Then the message; “Who’s Following You?”.  But the subject quickly settles on the main issue; death.  Too many of us are waiting for that dream.

“It’s Easy to Die” (@) MSK 1990

I wonder, I wonder who

Who, is following you.

It’s easy to die

You just close your eyes.

And then once the dream begins

It will never end. My friend.

Don’t put up a fight

Just follow the light.

It’s not too hard

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

Chorus:

It’s easy to turn

Your life into lies. My friend

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

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Even though I am very concerned and interested in the political challenges of our time, I do not venture into those topics in this blog.  My opinions are my opinions.  I have my reasons for voting the way I do.  Most of you have your own reasons for your private thoughts.   

 

…….. but today I want to acknowledge the announcement by the Supreme Court.  You may not agree with me – but in my humble opinion that does not make you my enemy – and I am CERTAINLY NOT YOURS!  I am not gay so this does not affect me personally, but it has directly affected one of my daughters.  What we have done in the past to many great and loving people was just wrong.

 

I am so thankful and happy this long battle for something so simple and assumed by so many as basic human rights has been decided.  There is a much longer battle ahead.  Like prejudice and racism, this is not over and is not easy to implement.  We still have so far to go, but let us enjoy this major change and how our country continues to move in the right direction and knows it is in our best interest as a nation and as a people to treat every citizen equally.  

I cannot stop smiling!

Reels of Tape”        (c) 1982 MSK 

Reels of tape feel no pain

Watch the movie over again.

Life pours past the flags unfurled

Crack the crystal paralyzed world.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

Careful surgeons with knives of rust

Open wounds of crimson lust.

Forget today and tomorrow.

Leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

First things first, but think about it twice.

Follow those who take their own advice.

Wasn’t trying any other time.

I’d walk away mumbling a Few Shattered Lines.

CHORUS: I’ve been told if you live in the future,

You’ll be who you wanna be.

But I ain’t moving to San Francisco

‘Til it drops into the sea.

Reels of tape feel no pain

Watch the movie over again.

Life pours past the flags unfurled

Crack the crystal paralyzed world.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

This is one of the original acoustic tunes that’s featured on my new album “Dark Energy.” You can find it on ITunes or CD Baby under Michael S. Kennedy.

As I continue to dig into past songs it is easy to see one problem I have;  I am not good at naming my songs.  Sometimes I go for the punch line, but the punch line is not even a line in the song!  Sometimes I try to highlight one phrase, but ignoring conventional songwriting wisdom, I do not use a phrase over and over in the chorus and call that the title.  So here is another example where the names have changed over the years.  Originally the title was “A Few Shattered Lines“.  I was reading a letter from a friend of mine at college and I pulled some of his phrases into the lyrics. Below are the results.

Reels of Tape has a deep meaning for me.  I spent a lot of years recording on reel to reel tape decks.  I still have my original 4 track TEAC machine.  The lyrics are more abstract than other songs I have written and for some reason I can still slip back to those times when I hear this song.  I am using my Ovation Balladeer 12 string guitar as my standard writing/recording instrument over the years, and I just love the tone and the progression of the chords.  The twelve strings just sound so full, and when using open tuning, it can make the chords sparkle.  The other quick observation: I don’t get rid of equipment I buy…… I keep it forever!

The lyrics seem to create images that expand beyond the words.  Familiar topics can do that sometimes when looked at with a different point of view or even a change in mood.  I love – Life pours past the flags unfurled, Crack the crystal paralyzed world – and other parts, but I could not really tell you why.  Another phrase that sticks with me is – Forget today and tomorrow, leave this song behind, and all it’s sorrow.  a lot of my lyrics have a rather dark perspective.  But behind them all is a sense of hope and a promise that things will get better and improve.  I am one of the most optimistic people I know!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Recording as an acoustic tune, I use one track for the vocals (unless there is a harmony track) and I use another track for the ‘line out’ from the acoustic/electric guitar, and then I use another track for a microphone placed in front of the 12 string (even here, it is important to place the microphone at the ‘sweet spot’  to get the best tone.  Placing a microphone in front of anything without testing will more often disappoint rather than delight.  As in other posts, I have had better success if I literally stick my head up to the instrument and move back and forth until I get the best sound.  Doing this while playing the instrument is not practical, so I place the microphone, record, listen and compare it to other tracks that use a different microphone position.  Once you have the best of the best, you can be pretty safe using it again.  Live situations with full bands and instrumentation is a challenge and I still try to stick my face in there to get an idea what that instrument sounds like but also if it is close to other instruments, speakers, or unwanted noise makers.  Most vocalists will stand in front of the microphone, but even in this case if they lean or tilt one way or the other it can dramatically affect the final tone or sound.  Much of this is tied to the proximity effect and we will get into that later. For the most part I will pan the 12 string guitar line out to hard Left and the microphone for the 12 string hard Right.  Vocals go in the center, unless you have more than one vocalist or lead singer.  I use very few processors like compressors, gates, limiters, and the like.  As long as you start with a solid tone a bit of EQ if needed, bring in some light reverb or delay and the mix is done.

When I was listening to music in my early years, it seemed very natural for me to sing along with the songs I like or new tunes I heard.  I did not realize until years later that what I was doing was harmonizing with the melody, rather than duplicating it.  This was probably my first gateway into music creation.  I seemed to have a knack for developing harmonies.  Rhythms and timing also came to me without me understanding what I was doing.  Some people play sports, some are good at math, and some are builders.  I just seemed to feel comfortable with music.  My mother was in theater, radio and music and I have already blamed her for a lot of exposure to performing arts while I was growing up, so I will continue to do so!

The human voice is an amazing instrument.  There is nothing like it.  I know that I am not a powerful vocalist – I simply do not have the pipes it must take, but fortunately that did not stop my love for singing.  As I sang along more and more, I got better at finding the notes that would enhance or decorate the melody line.  I never tried to over power them, but to add to them.  Sometimes a song only needs a phrase or two highlighted by harmonies or echoing the melody.  Other tunes seemed to inspire harmonies throughout the song.  Eventually I would hear the melody in my head and sing along creating harmonies.  I could not begin to tell you how to create each note while singing… there are no manuals for this.  There are lessons to be learned and great teachers or vocal instructors, but the basics are not easily put into words.

When it comes to instruments, there is a certain amount of knowledge and practice involved in understanding where the right notes are and hitting them at the right time.  Just knowing the right ones to play are not enough as you have to know when and when not to play them.  I bring this up because a lot of musicians talk about jam sessions or getting together and without a lot of details, start playing new themes and using ideas from other musicians to create and have fun.  My point here is that I was never that comfortable simply bringing my instrument and jamming with others.  I do feel comfortable with harmonies and if asked to add percussion or drums, I could fit in.  But for me playing guitar, keys, bass, flute, sax, etc. without practicing and knowing what I was doing ahead of time is difficult.  Many of the musicians I worked with were absolutely great at this.  They were great at bouncing musical ideas off other players and coming up with gorgeous textures, themes and tonal landscapes.  I have a few early examples of jams and creative sessions I would like to offer here from time to time.

I have been influenced by so many individuals, bands, groups and performers over the years it is quite amazing.  I was never stuck in a particular style of music.  I am not a fan of opera or deep country music or blues, for that matter (I know, that will not go over well with some of you! HA!) as I lean to the other side toward open and interpretive styles.  There are a bunch of names we all know and can pretty much agree on if you listen to rock, pop, jazz, R&B, country, etc.   But I have almost always been drawn toward the unusual but talented; the bizarre and clever; off axis dead on target!  I love bands with great vocals and harmonies.  Some of my favorites are quite popular now!  Household names sometimes, but many are just now getting recognition and others never gained much of a following……  I know what at least one feels like, LOL.

After growing up listening to the music of my parents and older brother and sister, I enjoyed groups out at the time.  No need to go over ancient influences here.  But as I was growing more and more music-aware, there were bands I really enjoyed – not just a song or two, but everything they would release.  The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Procol Harum, Gentle Giant, Yes, King Crimson, Steely Dan, The Police, Chic Corea, Herbie Hancock, Frank Zappa, Simon and Garfunkel, Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and others before and after them just kept getting better and better.

Today I love a lot of music, but there are very few bands or artists I love most of what they do. For most it is hit and miss.  Other groups are fairly consistent.  Just no one I go out of my way to hear every song.  Just me getting old, so no need to panic.

If you will, let me show you what has affected me growing up and songs from groups I consider the best of the best.  I will probably get to your favorite groups to, but there are just so many over the years.  As this is not a reflection of history, I will again avoid attempts to be chronologically accurate.   Buffalo Springfield was one that managed to send me a message, and it helps to remember the times and the events surrounding some of these songs and those that lead to their hit “For What It’s Worth”.