Posts Tagged ‘#music’

MSK Yellowstone

MSK Yellowstone

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Photo by MSK Yosemite

Burning Impressions That Last Forever                                 

“Single Desire” was written in a time when I must have had a lot to say.  The year was 1988. Once love has grabbed you it can burn deep.  No matter how you want things to turn out, sometimes you have no control on the direction they take.  You find yourself helpless at the time and unable to avoid mistakes that seem obvious even to you.  Single Desire tries to describe the condition when adoration is not reciprocal.  When you are not loved in return.  Only one thing matters and nothing you can do will make it happen.

When the other person learns that type of control is in their hands, they have power that can turn lovers insane.  He/She can make the helpless romantic into a tool that can be discarded when no longer useful.  There is no cost to them.  Displays of charm and hints of affection can destroy all resistance and common sense in the admirer.

We need to wait until the fire burns out completely before we can stop following and finally walk away.  The problem is there is usually very little left to walk away with.

I tried to give this song a full arrangement as powerful as the lyrics (or the idea behind them) felt to me.  I knew I could not sing it the way it required so I called my  good friend and band-mate Gary Jefferson as I have many times over the years to do the vocal tracks.  My wife Ellen does the chorus ‘response’ vocal parts.  I used my keyboards and MIDI tone generators to do all the instrumental tracks including the drums, strings, brass and bass guitar parts, and invited my buddy Shawn Anderson to come over and lay down the lead guitar tracks. Harlen Lee, another great friend of mine, came in and added additional guitar parts.  I really like the bass guitar line, and think the strings add movement and dramatic accents to the song.

Please give “Single Desire” a few plays to let it sink in and I hope you enjoy.

I wrote this song many years ago.  It reflects ideas I had for a long time before they became lyrics to a song.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been interrupted by people coming into a dark room I was in and immediately tuning on all the lights.  Even early in my life I was concerned about so many city lights that I could not see the stars on an otherwise clear night.  There seemed to be no end to this trend.  Now I have to travel miles and miles to find a dark place outside the city lights.

earthlights3_dmsp

I only have this one recording of the song.  This happened when I introduced the song for the first time to my band mates.  We ran through this tune a couple times in the living room.  As far as I know this is the only time the song was performed, so I was lucky to get it recorded……

Though that is not strictly true as I recorded everything back then!  My friends used to give me a hard time for being so weird about that.  I always had the mics out and ready to record.  Even if we just sat around and talked, I had the reels rolling.

So while this is not a great recording and you can hear me give arrangement directions as we ran through the song, I am glad to have this copy of Brighter and Brighter.  I will have to look in my archives to find out when the lyrics were written.  At the time, my young son would want to keep his bedroom lights on at night.  Not for fear of something under the bed.  Just because he preferred it that way.  So these lyrics and the song they inspired are for him.

“Brighter and Brighter”                                  (C) MSK

Some people get off on those neon lights

Keep the sun burning to hold back the night.

Won’t give it a chance and set the darkness free

So much going on that they have to see

That they have to see.

 

Not me!

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

 

Sign posts, traffic lights and red laser beams

Brighter and Brighter that’s the way it seems

I don’t turn yours out so don’t turn mine on

Just leave it where it is until I am gone

Until I am gone.

 

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

 

Hide in the closet and close my eyes

It won’t help to look when the spirt flies

It’s people like you who learn to believe

Through large mushroom clouds and your big bight ideas

Yeah, all your big bright ideas.

 

Not me!

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

I Dig the Dark

____________________________________________________________

Written 8-27-1982 by MSK and I recorded it around 4-1983.

The main melodic themes for this song were inspired by my Yamaha DX7 ‘tine’ sound. That sound (or patch) has been used in many professional recordings since the keyboard was introduced.  The guitars and vocals are real-time of course, and everything else was sequenced.

Ann Ellis from my band The Personal Touch does the vocals on this one.  I would play the main piano part and she would sing the lyrics until we got the timing and the feel the way we wanted it.  From that point I sequenced the main piano part.  Every time I play this song I play it as you hear it in this recording, but I play a different last chord.  No two versions have the same ending, and I never know what the last chord will be.  My wife Ellen and I worked on the backing sounds like the strings, brass and pads to make this a full sounding production.  Once I had the basic piano parts and drums done, I don’t think we ever added a dedicated bass line as the song ended up sounding very full.

My buddy Shawn David Anderson plays lead guitar on this one and really drives home with the power and tone I was hoping for.  The lyrics are one of my favorites.  Not necessarily by themselves, but when reflecting on the emotions and events of the time. True multi-track recording capabilities gave me the option to create complex instrumental layers as opposed to the limited recordings I had been able to achieve from a four-track cassette deck!

I even sent this song to be evaluated by professionals.  Among some of the comments it was suggested that the song was too long and that the intro went too long before the vocal lines were introduced.  I have a version that starts when the vocals kick in, but this is my favorite version.  I hope you agree.

Mara – The Making of a Video

I usually did not have to search for new projects.  There were plenty of musicians, bands and performers that did not have a lot of resources – or cash – when starting out.  Working at the local music store chain, I was lucky to know some great players, writers, and musicians of all sorts.  l am attracted to talented people of all kinds.  I often wish listeners of my music would give me the benefit of the doubt that I gave to many of the people I met and came to appreciate.  I realize my songs are not always ‘radio worthy’ or commercially viable, and always hoped someone would look beyond that and realize the songs I offered for what they could be if recorded professionally and marketed on a large scale.  Maybe that day will still come, but back then there were a number of artists that I could help take the next step.

Word got out that I had an understanding of technology and could usually pick things up quickly.  I absorbed owners manuals, dedicated time and when possible drafted other talented people to make projects work.  One of the fun and exciting things I got to do was shoot and edit live musical band performances.  MakeShift Kreations was an early company name I came up with using my initials: M S K.  I believe this was filmed way back in 1988!!!

Using the same video and editing suite from the cable company available for local access channels that I used for my first conceptual video: “Walking Man” I learned how to use multi camera filming and video editing techniques.  In some situations I offered to do videos for friends as this was a new (again, at the time!) medium and was very expensive for most bands.  In Part I, I would like to present the video I made of Mara, a local band with highly talented musicians.  My wife Ellen and I did all the camera, editing and post production work.  These are their original songs performed live over a two-night period. It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot and had a great time.

Please use the following link to see the Mara: Part I video:

https://youtu.be/VwKz1Po4_XM

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Fortunately, when I have too many things on my plate and never seem to get to putting some of my best lyrics to music, I have many talented friends that bail me out.  Often I write poems – but almost as often I begin writing lyrics intending to put music to them at some point.  Today I will share the lyrics and the original live recording to one of my favorites.

I found myself thinking of musical relationships and what, to some, becomes a long path that never gets close to ‘stardom’, whatever that is.  The late-night conversations with many friends – musicians reflecting on the efforts and rewards involved in the lifestyle we have chosen – became metaphors in these lyrics.

The title “Stainless Steel” refers to one type of guitar strings.  I also use silk and stainless steel strings on my Ovation 12 string guitar, but Stainless Steel captured the feeling I was surrounded by when writing the lyrics.  There is a certain pride creative people get when sacrificing for their art.  So many things are put on the back-burner or postponed indefinitely to accomplish turning a dream or idea into a treasure; even if it is only for a select few to enjoy.  No one else may ever know what gems were created, and it appears to many that you have nothing to show for your time and talent.  Only a few will understand the trade-offs you have made; those sitting around with you late at night, year after year.

In this recording my good friend, the late Mark Kelsey, plays guitar and sings.  He is accompanied by Ann Ellis from my band “The Personal Touch”.  Mark has worked through the arrangement a few times and I believe this is the first time Ann had heard the song.  He quickly recorded for me to listen to and was later to record a final version in a professional studio where he lived.  This is my favorite recording and I will always think fondly of him when I hear this recording.  While the living room quality is easy to hear, the mood and inspiration comes through clearly.

In our busy lives, it is all too easy for us to overlook the efforts our friends and loved ones make for us.  Sometimes it takes far too long for us to fully appreciate those acts of love.  I have let many go unrecognized – unappreciated – unacknowledged until it was too late.  Looking back I find myself humbled to realize how much my life would have been uplifted and how many friends deserved my  – – –  I do not know the correct words, but ‘praise’ seems as close as any I can think of.   It may also have uplifted their lives in a time when they needed it most.  It can be sad and joyous when time finally reveals the reflections of our lives.

Stainless Steel”                         Lyrics by MSK, Music by Mark D Kelsey  © 1984

 

Stainless Steel Shining Bright

Broken Glass Shattered nights

When we talk, What we feel

Lights the fire Turns the Wheel

Turns the wheel

 

Stainless Steel Sharp and cold

Day by day Bought and sold

Take my hand Close your eyes

Say a prayer Throw the dice

Throw the dice

 

Waiting for a Miracle is like waiting forever

When there’s nothing else to do

I hope that someone’s out there waiting for me baby,

The way that I ‘m waiting for you

Oh Stainless Steel

 

Stainless Steel Deep within

Who we are What we’ve been

Reaching out Find ourselves

Kiss goodbye, What the hell

What the hell

 

Stainless Steel Never bends

No one blames Or defends

Smiles will fade Tears will fall

Memories of Nothing at all

Nothing at all

 

Waiting for a Miracle’s like waiting forever

When there’s nothing else to do

I hope that someone’s out there waiting for me baby,

The way that I ‘m waiting for you

Oh Stainless Steel

 

 

 

I enjoyed the response from my poem “Eight Letters”.  Thank you all so much. (https://midimike.com/2017/07/25/eight-letters/)

The poem kept rattling in my head all day long and I found them fitting a rhythmic pattern.  Then a melody jumped in and I headed up to my studio to get it all down.

There was a mood inspired by the groove and I layed down the guitar tracks to a metronome.

The drums came easily as I followed the rhythms in my head.  As I mentioned earlier, this is fun and simple for me.  The chorus just jumped out, and I like the changes coming back into the verse.  The 6 string acoustic guitar sounded great to me and fit the song perfectly.

From there it was add the bass sound on my MIDI keyboard and it was ready for the Lead and harmony vocals.

It took me a while to sing this one to match the mood and I am glad you didn’t have to listen to me learn the melody and fit it to the music, but I think it came out as intended; short and sweet.

Here is the song mixed down.  The whole process took me about a week, but this was before I started working over 50 hours a week!

 

Three

Another thing that helps recording projects is if the sound board has a number of spare Aux or FX (Effects) Sends.  Some boards offer 6-8 sends for various reinforcement and recording needs.  If you have multiple tracks to record the live performance, use Direct-Outs when available for each active channel on the board.  Record as many separate tracks as you can for the most options during mix down.  If no Direct-Outs available use those Sends!  You can still record the Left and Right Main outs, then use Sends (you can use the ones not needed for monitors and effects…..) to record instruments you want to have independent mixing control later.  If the board offers Sub Groups – even better.  You can let the sound guru use Left and Right Main outs if they wish, and you use the Sub Groups to create 2 stereo mixes you can record as pairs.  Mix the drums and rhythm section (drums, rhythm guitar and bass guitar for the most part) with a stereo image by L-R panning of appropriate channels and assigning those channels to Sub Group 1.   Then take lead guitars and other instruments and hard-pan to the Left out of Sub Group 2, and the vocals hard-panned to the Right out of Sub Group 2.   In only four tracks you have great bed tracks to mix with, and control over vocal processing and adjusting volume of solo or lead instruments.  This still keeps that ‘live sound’ but helps create a better stereo environment and some independence when mixing and processing limited tracks.

One last set-up where I liked the results I got by using stereo in a different way with the following technique.  Instead of thinking left and right as the stereo image, I set up Audience position is 1 (left), and Stage position is 2 (right).  To achieve this I create a Mono mix from the sound board as described and available as above and record to channel 1 of the stereo recorder.  Then I take a quality microphone and hang it from the ceiling above the center of the stage and record this on channel two…….

I dump the ‘stereo’ wave forms into my computer and you can see right away they are offset a bit: one source delayed more than the other.  Recording software allows you to separate the stereo tracks and shift the start time just a little to match the other track and all of a sudden you have a new Live Stereo environment where you can hear what it sounds like to be ON STAGE, mixed with what it sounds like IN THE AUDIENCE.  Try it a few times and you can get great results if you are willing to sacrifice typical stereo images!

 

This has been a very busy year.  Even though I have spent most of it unemployed, I find there was so little time to do things on my list.  I have been busy recording songs; some old ones from the closet and a few new ones where either the lyrics or melodies have inspired me to power up the studio and work/play.  I have not spent much time here.  I feel like I need to catch up on some close friends again.

I also started working again.  I now work for Amazon and though it is not a glorious position, I do like the company and what I do.  It is my first time working 10 hour days and it has taken me a while to adjust.  During those days it is hard to get much else accomplished.

I would like to give you a sneak preview of a new release on CD Baby called “After The Chase”.  I will post more songs and hope you like them.  So, while I may not be in contact with many of you as often as I would like, I keep thinking of the followers and friends I have made here.

I am not very good at naming my songs so it might come to you as a surprise that the name of this song is Get Up!  I came up with that one all by myself.  The simple groove is introduced with the ringing of a bell.  Actually, it is two ‘bells’ that are accurately tuned  off center pitch in each direction.  If you have perfect pitch, I apologize in advance as this will be like nails scratching a chalk board for you!  These were a gift from my friend TR.  It just seemed like a good start to this piece.

Lyrically the song reflects the need we humans have to keep trying and searching for different ways to overcome challenges.  Too often we find ourselves on the ground or in a ditch and think it is not worth getting up.  Thinking it is unfair; that others have it easy and we deserve what they have.

It is far past time that we leave the animal, cultural and magical baggage behind.  We are no longer simply the ‘alpha dogs’ on this planet.  We need to look at our species (beginning with ourselves) and our universe from other dimensions.  Our perspective needs to widen to see the challenges before us.  The solution must be good for all life here, not the one-sided scorching policy all too often displayed in our past.

In order for this to happen we need to look at ourselves as individuals.  Do we contribute to the problem or find ways we can be part of the resolutions?  It is not too late.  If it doesn’t work, get up and try something else.  Be more than a moth driven unerringly toward the flame.  There are more important things than the social trappings of us vs them, surviving or sharing, progress or nature.  Add a little depth.  Look past the shallow surface of day to day life.  “Save the File As”.

Take your future under your control.
Every step getting closer.  Every opportunity improve your understanding and apply what you learn.  Once you find the right path, grab some fellow humans and take them with you!  Now, do it again!

I programmed the MIDI drums, rhythm guitar and keyboard parts.  Thanks to Mr. Lee added the hypnotic guitar parts for me.  I do all the vocals and try to make a haunting but energetic feel for this song.  I call it my anthem for this millennium.  Maybe you find yourself singing this one from time to time.

“Get Up”                                          © 2014 MSK

“Everyone has what should be yours, it’s the way the game is played”

It’s time to Get Up.

Turn yourself around

Get Up

If you have to do it again

 

Get Up

Get yourself up

Get Up

If you have to do it again

 

Give yourself a three dimensional effect

Change the color add a little depth.

Now reverse the image and back down to size.

 

It’s time to Get Up.

Turn yourself around

Get Up

If you have to do it again.

 

Get Up

Get yourself up

Get Up

If you have to do it again.

 

Give yourself a three dimensional effect

Change the color add a little depth.

Now reverse the image and back down to size.

Save the File As:

 

You gotta’ have a real knack

That’s more like an addiction

To turn good hard facts

Into fantasy-fiction.

 

It’s time to Get Up.

Turn yourself around

Get Up

If you have to do it again.

 

Give yourself a three dimensional effect

Change the color add a little depth.

Now reverse the image and back down to size.

Save the File As:

 

You gotta’ have a real knack

That’s more like an addiction.

 

“Everyone has what should be yours, it’s the way the game is played”

It’s time to Get Up.

Turn yourself around

Get Up

Get Up

 

If you have to

Sayin’ If you have to

If you have to just do it again.

 

Sayin’ If you have to

You have to

If you have to just do it again.

 

 

It never ceases to amaze me how inspired and creative I feel when I change the strings on my guitar(s).  Simple chords sound gorgeous.  The whole body of the guitar resonates with depth.  This makes experimenting and exploring new areas delightful.  It is important to keep tools of the trade not just working properly but living up to their potential.

I watch vocalists go into the recording booth and put on really nice headphones to get a direct audio feed from the soundboard.  Maybe this is not their first time, but when they start singing – and can truly hear what their voice sounds like they get this big grin that turns into a surprised smile.  Hearing through the studio system vocalists can make nuanced changes as they sing ……. and hear the difference.  This gives them more control and immediate results.  They become confident enough to experiment and innovate.  I hope it feels similar to playing my 12 string guitar with brand new strings.

Pictured are of some of my guitars, the drummer from Euphoria/The Chase – Mike Gill, and Steve Steinmann of Iridium.

What tools do you use that benefit from regular care?

The Cotton SongGoing With the  Flow                                                                                                                                This is a calming piece based on the string sounds from one of the plug-ins on my recording software program.  Sometimes a new sound or new toy can inspire themes, songs and projects.  This is one of those situations where I am listening to new sounds and noodling on the keyboard to hear the new tones and to see how the patch responds to the keyboard and controllers.  As I was listening to the new sounds, I enjoyed the string sound I was playing with and started recording the noodling I was doing.  I played for about five or six minutes and stopped recording to listen back.

The first section I scrapped and the rest was rather pleasant (sometimes this is a surprise indeed!).  While listening I started hearing harmonies in my head so I started recording on a 2nd track and used the same string sound to add another layer.  After that I stopped.  I like the mood this inspires.  I am not sure why I called it Cotton Song, but I got the feeling of being in the South overlooking plantations.  So it stuck!  I did not change anything and mixed it down to what you hear in this post.  Other versions of noodling or just playing with sounds rarely turn into a solid piece, so I have tons of snippets that have nice themes but to date have never been expanded upon.  One of these days I will listen to other noodling sessions and I might make something out of them.  For this song, have a cup of tea, sit back for a little bit and let your mind and body relax.  Admit it… you could use that right about now!