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September, 2011:

Muses Never Sleep

One of the hardest parts of songwriting is opening to the flow of ideas and creativity. It’s as hard as turning all of the stuff you get into polished songs that people might relate to. When my Muses are talking to me, I try very hard to pay attention and write down what they say.

Last night they started in around 10:15, and didn’t quiet down until sometime after 11. So I got to sleep before midnight. In between, I got four pages of fairly interesting ideas and lyrics. Most of them seem to be on a theme of dealing with everyday life, and most of them seem like I could possibly stick them into the same song. There’s no chorus yet, no hook. I know I need these to turn it all into a song or two, and they’ll probably arrive in yet another blinding flash of inspiration. Hopefully not at 2 AM, but it’s possible.

A rough-draft sample, just so you can see how my mind works:

(traffic)

Take a break before I break the brake lights getting in my way

Hate to decelerate; this waiting makes for longer days

(other)

My mortgage is under water; I don’t want to screw with it

I’ll call the bank next quarter; tell them what to do with it

This is the stuff songs are eventually made of. Either in the shower, or in the middle of the night.

Sadly, my Day Job won’t take “My Muses kept me up all night” as an excuse to not be on time in the morning. So it goes.

Technology and Music

We’ve come a long way from sitting around a campfire playing hollowed-out logs for entertainment. We have musical instruments of all sizes, shapes, tones, and varieties, and we have thousands of ways of creating a sound, massaging it to sound like anything else, and then delivering that sound to someone thousands of miles away.

As a consumer, I could easily be buried in all of the new music that exists in the world today and that keeps getting created, minute by minute. For example, I once saw a counter showing how many songs were on iTunes; it was adding a new song every couple of seconds. Wikipedia claims that there are over 14 million songs on iTunes now. At three and a half minutes average per song, that’s over 93 years of music, played 24/7.

That’s a lot.

As a creator of music, I’ve got plenty of options as well. It used to be just me and my guitar. Simple, right? Well, if I’m playing to more than three or four people, not all of whom are maintaining disciplined science, I need to amplify the sound somehow or lose my voice trying to make myself heard. :) Hundreds of choices for amplifiers, speakers, mixers, effects…

And that’s not counting the number of options I have when I record.

Over time, I’ve found some gear that works for me and gives me a decent sound. And now I’m starting to branch out a bit into stuff that makes me sound like more than one guy with a guitar. I’m assembling tracks of the songs I do, as many as I can find – some of them I’ll have to do without or create my own. In my copious free time. :) And I’m trying out other effects such as a harmonizer.

Will all these gimmicks and gadgets make me sound better, or worse? Come out to a show sometime soon and let me know.

Next show is Friday night (9/23), 8-10 PM, at Panama Bay Coffee, Livermore. Details on my Shows page. I’ll be trying out some of this cool new technology.

When No News is Good News

Are you tired of reading all the depressing stuff in the daily news? I get that way sometimes. I’ve gotten better at skipping over the absurdities and the depressing bits, but it’s often hard to ignore things. Especially in the comments sections, in which everyone feels entitled to their own facts, rips other people just because they *can*, behind that mask of anonymity, and so forth.

I’m starting to collect Websites that I can go to when I want to distract myself, but don’t want to depress myself. So far I’ve been focused mostly on humor, but am starting to do more with travel and nature. Here are some of the sites that help brighten my day:

  • Not Always Right: Weird customer service stories. Some of them are a bit on the “ohmighod, people are *that* dumb?” side, but a lot of them are out and out hilarious.
  • Texts From Last Night: Things people say when they’re drunk, hooking up, skipping class, and other odd things. Oh, the humanity! Warning – much of it is NSFW and in truly questionable taste. To me, that’s part of what makes it funny. Others might have a different opinion.
  • Farallones Webcam: There’s a marine life sanctuary on a few islands off the coast of northern California. This is a nice place to just watch Nature for a while.
  • Private Islands Online (for rent or sale): Ever want to live on your own island? Here are some places you can escape to, without leaving your chair. Ignore the price tags.
  • Windjammer Cruises: Want to sail away? Here is a fun site that offers vacations for that. Check out the photo galleries as a bit of an escape.

What are your favorite “escape” sites?

September is Salsa Time!

I just finished making my first batch of salsa for the year:

photo of salsa made at home

Fresh Salsa!

I do this every year, generally along the time I have enough tomatoes to do it. This year, I happened to have all the *other* ingredients around the house as well, so it qualifies as “garden salsa.” And *that’s* something I’m very proud of – that I can create this out of plants I’ve grown myself.

I *did* have to cheat a little bit. I didn’t quite have enough left of my last onion, and the pepper I had looked a bit anemic. So I went down to the corner market and got another onion and another pepper. But everything else comes from my garden, organically-grown.

If you want to try this yourself, here’s my recipe:

  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 peppers – I use one jalapeno, or a jalapeno and a milder pepper. If you like the heat, add more and hotter peppers.
  • 1 medium to large onion – I prefer purple
  • 6 large tomatoes, or equivalent
  • juice of 1/4 lime

I put each ingredient in turn into my food processor and turn it on high until the ingredient is thoroughly shredded. Then I add the next ingredient, top to bottom on the list. The tomatoes get blended in partly on medium, partly on high.

You can, of course, add or modify ingredients to this, depending on how hot you like your salsa, what types of vegetables you have, etc. But it’s a relatively fast and simple recipe that almost anyone can use.

Bon appetit! :) I’m serving this with some Trader Joe’s unsalted corn tortilla chips and a rum ‘n Coke Zero, with another bit of that lime squeezed in.