Of Dreams

In a recent post, where I unveiled my latest ode to my beloved (and my muse), I mentioned that someday I would probably write and record a song that had to do with "something else".

That idea got under my skin.  I wondered, though, what that song might look like.  The answer was right under my nose.

Incarnationbanner_2
I took my inspiration from INCARNATION, which has been monopolizing my time and mind and soul, anyway.  I decided to start from the standpoint of what would I do if someone approached me and asked me to write an end title song for the movie.  What would that sound like?

My vantage was Harry, the main character.  How could I capture an aspect of his internal stuggle and his journey musically.  Whether or not this song fits that bill is questionable, but It’s clearly inspired by it.

I am reasonably happy with the outcome, though I find these songs are usually "finished" when I get sick of futzing with them versus being perfect.  I don’t know whether perfect is possible considering my equipment, ability, time, and talent.  There are aspects of this one that make me cringe a bit–my vocals in parts and the drum track, where I had limited options for programming/editing to create more variety, in particular.  But I am satisfied overall–enough so to share it here to all of you.

That said, here it is.  I present to you: OF DREAMS.

Let me know what you think.

Of Dreams

Dreaming
I’m dreaming
Heaven weeps
While you sleep
And I-
I open my eyes again

I walk alone
A heart turned to stone
Eternity just laughs at me
And you-
You hang on my mind again

When all is said and done
Line up the setting suns
With endless nights
And I’m still left wondering
If they’re all a simple waste
Of dreams

Turn around
O! You silly clown
The light of day
Is the other way

When all is said and done
Line up the setting suns
With endless nights
And I’m still left wondering
In all our “come what mays”
In all our passion plays
In the fleeting taste
Of all our ought to bes
Is it all a simple waste
Is it worth us to embrace
And live, in fact, in place
Of dreams?

Just Breathe

note: if you wanna skip all this commentary crap and cut straight to the song, scroll down.

– – – – – – – – –

Last winter, I decided it was time to say good bye to my old M-Audio keyboard.  The bright idea to sell the thing was predicated on the proposition that I would soon be in a position to upgrade my computer system in its entirety and enter the world of utter Garageband kick-assedness.

Said upgrade was not in the cards, and I found myself standing at the brink of fall still muddling through with flagging technology and sorely missing the keyboard I so prematurely sent into the craigslist ether.

I was a bit amazed and perplexed.  I didn’t think that I would miss noodling around in Garageband as much as I did.  I guess that’s why I thought it would be no biggie to hawk the keyboard.  I hadn’t realized just how much I’ve come to rely on it.  To calm me.  To help me work through things.  To inspire me.

It’s a strange life, this living into one’s dream.  One side-effect is that my fun is also my work.  That means I get to do it all the time.  The other edge of the sword, however, is I never quite get away from it, either.  What was my "hobby" has become my vocation.  Which begs the question, "What do I now do ‘just for fun?’"

The music had become that for me.  It was the thing that I did just for me, with no preconceived notions of fame and fortune behind it.  And that made it even more–I don’t know what the word is…special?  No…compelling?  Unique?  No…  I’ll have to get back to you on that one–than even my writing.  Regardless, it’s something upon which I had started to rely.  And it’s something that filled me up.

And it’s something that I feel like it was something at which I was improving.  Although I would, by no means, qualify myself as very good, much less great at it, I would say that I was starting to get a feel for it.  For what it was, I could live with the results.  It was the process, though, that made it all worth it for me.  Getting lost in it provided me immense satisfaction.

Strange…the thought that just occurred to me is that the process is a lot like screenwriting.  Hmmm…I won’t go there.  Pretend I didn’t say that.

Anyway, I found I was missing it.  I found that there was a hole in my life where it had been, and I was worse off for it.

Then…a few weeks ago, Dean, Pete, and I were at Dean’s house.  We were rehearsing for shooting our upcoming streaming video series for SagePresence, and what did I spy gathering dust in the corner of his family room?  The same type of M-Audio keyboard that I had gotten rid of last winter.

I asked him if he was using it.  The answer was (no pun intended) music to my ears.

"Using what?  Oh…that?  No…not really.  Well, never."

Next thing I know I was heading home with the thing ticked under my arm and on indefinite loan.

The difference it made was virtually instantaneous.  As soon as I got home, I launched GarageBand and started futzing around.  There it was, that stirring.  The smile on my face.  The warm glow in my chest.

In honor of this homecoming of sorts, I decided to write and record a song.  Of course, it’s inspired by my muse.  One day, I am certain I will write a song about pencils or world hunger or something, but for now it seems appropriate to wander around in this space.  After all, if music is the language of the heart…

I am pretty happy overall with this little ditty, which I call "Just Breathe".  I believe it demonstrates another big step forward in my understanding of both the craft of songwriting and the tools I am using.  I know that I am still at the starting line on both, but I feel like I am learning and that it shows.

The only thing I am really dissatisfied with is the vocals.  When I hear them, I cringe.  My next purchase will be a better microphone and interface for my computer, so I can record vocals without having them either sound like crap or over-modulating.  The vocals on this version are the second draft scratch track, but I got frustrated trying to make them work to my liking.  Subsequent takes sounded even worse, so I decided to screw it and leave it as is till the day I could do it right.

So here it.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Another one for my baby.

Just Breathe

Hey, darlin’
Don’t fret
This ain’t over yet
Hey, baby
It’s all right   
Even if it takes us all night

We’re gonna close the distance
Between me and you
We’re gonna come together
We’re gonna learn to live what’s true

Just breathe
Trust me
Trust you
We can make it through
More walk
Less talk
Less push and shove
More makin’ love

Hey, darlin’
What gives?
We cannot change the things we did
But, baby
Why say
Our better days are miles away?

Could it be, baby
We’re already there?
Could it be, maybe
All we need is some air?

Just breathe
Trust me
Trust you
We can see this through
More walk
Less talk
Less push and shove
More makin’ love

Where does the love go?
How does a heart know
When the sun will rise?
The night is dark
There’s no end or relief in sight
Along the way
It’s everything we can do sometimes
To keep our faith
We stumble to the light
And hope we make it right

Hey, baby
Don’t cry
This isn’t about good-bye
So, darlin’
Just smile
And come and sit with me awhile

We’re gonna close the distance
Between me and you
We’re gonna come together
We’re gonna learn
to live what’s true

Just breathe
Trust me
Trust you
We can make it through
More walk
Less talk
Less push and shove
More makin’ love

Could it be, baby
We’re already there?
Could it be, maybe
All we need is some air?

Just breathe
Trust me
Trust you
We will make it through
More walk
Less talk
More makin’ love
Less push and shove

Just breathe
Trust me
Trust you
We can make it through
More walk
Less talk
Less push and shove
More makin’ love

Hold, please…

Hello, OLU Reader.  You have reached Bill’s blog.  Bill isn’t available right now because, as you know, THE SCRIPT, MY FRIENDS, MUST GET DONE!  Bill will make his triumphant return to the blogshpere just as soon as he puts this @#&$^%&@ to bed.

In the meantime, perhaps you might enjoy a little music while you wait.

Got a message from my friend, Jason Morphew, who, you might remember was the original composer/songster on RUNAWAY.  Things happened and yada yada, and suddenly one day his music is off the movie.

Don’t get me wrong–I love Robert Miller’s haunting score.  It’s one of the most impressive parts of the movie.  And when I first heard the chilling and mournful strains of the main theme, I was nearly moved to tears.  Uh…yeah.  That kinda good.

The biggest loss when Jason left the project, I believe, was the hole left where his uber terrific Bull in the China Shop of Love used to be.  What a cool song.  Funny and poignant, innocent and menacing all at the same time.  And it’s hip and catchy.  Nothing against The Libertines’ song, which is a worthy replacement.  The movie was, however, designed around the Morphew song, and its absence shows.  And the experience of the movie–over the top uber magnificent as it is–is somewhat diminished as a result.

Anyway, got a little side-tracked there.

Vaporizercover
Jason’s new album, Vaporizer, has hit store shelves, physical and metaphysical alike.  In his email announcement, he included an mp3 of one of the tracks, Taking Things for Granted, which is kinda flowery and boppy, but also carries a subtle aspect of ennui that gives it unexpected heft.

The tune is downloadable on his MySpace page.  But in an effort to save you from the torture that is MySpace, I have included a link to the mp3 here:

Taking Things for Granted by Jason Morphew

The album seems to be getting some good buzz and positive notices, with one reviewer calling Jason "one of the most gifted songwriters now going."

Not bad.

You can purchase Vaporizer on iTunes, or by visiting Jason’s website.

Congrats, Jason!  I hope over-the-top success solidifies around Vaporizer.  (yes…I just had to say it.  The temptation was simply too great.)

Baby in Italia

Back in June of 2002, my beloved, more than a little weary and worse for wear, took a little trip.

For ten days, she wandered under the Tuscan sun with a tour group–the "pretty and lively girl from Minnesota…so brave to travel alone."

Many stories have I heard from this trip: from it’s original non-start on September 11, 2001, to her high-adventure train trip to catch up with the tour group after her flight to Italy was delayed, to the story of the crowd of concerned folks gathered around an injured bird in Sienna.  I love hearing them, mostly because of the way her eyes light up and her whole body fills with an effervescence that nearly bubbles over when she talks about the place.

There are times, I admit, that a little pang of jealousy tweaks at my heart as she talks.  Not because I am jealous that she’s gone there and I haven’t, but because I wish I had been there with her.

I know, I know…the Universe does as the Universe does, and everything unfolds for a reason, and yada yada.  It’s all good.  I also know that someday we’ll go there together, and we’ll have a beautiful time as we walk the cobblestone streets of cities that captured her heart so thoroughly.  But you get it, right..?

One day, while noodling at my other keyboard, I was picturing Robbye clomping through fields and along dirt roads in those cute and clunky boots of hers.  I envisioned her in Rome and Florence and Sienna soaking in their sights and their sounds and their essences.  I played out little encounters–some funny, some frustrating, some so quiet and full of awe they’d move you to tears.  I saw her in her own "room with a view", tossing open the shutters on her first morning there and standing in an open air window, basking in the promise of adventure and romance in Bella Italia.  I was experiencing it all as a kind of montage…my baby in Italia: the movie.

And it struck me.  What my fingers were forming was a theme.  A "cue" they call it in movie composer-speak.  It was the music that accompanied Robbye as she moved through these little scenelets.

So I took a few hours and finished it, this little musical cue.  It was fun because I had been wanting to do something a little more "orchestral".  Most significant, it was important because, for a change, I felt like I was there with her, sharing the Italian experience in some way.  I felt a little less jealous and a little more present.

As usual, the thing’s got its problems.  I listen to it now, and they scream out to me: Fix me!  Fix meeeee!!!  That is, however, for another time.  When I am able to get a newer and better Mac and a new keyboard and such.

For now, it’s good enough.  And Robbye likes it.  When she first heard it, she threw her arms around me, tears flowing freely and said, "It’s really good!  You really get it!"  Equally cool, another time, when the music had popped up on my iTunes rotation, she walked into my office and said, "What’s that?  It’s beautiful."

Before I could open my mouth, though, she nodded to herself.

"Oh…yeah."

And as she turned to leave, she smiled.  Effervescent.

All that said, I present to you…

Baby in Italia

Italianwoman_2

on the photo: Best Friends, taken by Robbye in Sienna, I think.  Of the many amazing images she took in Italy, this is among my absolute favorites.  BTW–you can see more of my wife’s amazing work at her website.

Music

To Christmases ago, flush with inspiration over this Great Big Love, I blew past my perceived limits and gave my first-ever homemade gift.

This past Christmas, short on cash and long on wanting to make a real difference for both Robbye and my parents (the kids were no-brainers: Zach=Xbox, Sydney=any and all things "girl"), I once again turned to GarageBand for assistance.

For Robbye, I finished one song that I’d been working on (and she knew about) for months.  And just to keep her on her toes, I wrote and recorded another on the Q.T.  Her real present.

For Mom & Dad, another first.  My first-ever cover.

As I get more time behind that other kind of keyboard, I sense my growth.  Somewhat unfortunately, it mostly serves to illuminate how much I DON’T know.  What a neophyte I am.  And how limited, especially in terms of my hardware (read: CPU and mic), I am.

Not to mention that I am increasingly skeptical about my abilities as a songwriter.  And then there’s my voice.  Oy…

But, I’m not in a chase for any recording contract.  This is just for me.  This is my hobby, and so I am overjoyed that anyone enjoys it.  Yet, approval isn’t required.  This is purely a labor of love.

On a positive note, I think these songs represent the best musicianship (if you can call it that) and arranging I’ve done.  I know I am not where I was when I started playing around with this stuff.  With each project, I grow leaps and bounds.  That’s fun.

All that said, here are the three songs I recorded for Christmas…

I Really Love You

This is the song I began this past summer.  I meant to finish it then, but the "dobro" instrument was most vexing.  I got a little frustrated, and decided to put it away.  After more hours than I care to admit, I figured out how to get the sound I was looking for and finished it.

The idea was to make a–you know–happy, upbeat song for a change.  Most other things I’d come up with were–you know–not.  And I had it in my head, "What if I was writing a country pop song?  What would that sound like?"  Apparently, it would sound suspiciously like this one.

For this song, the opening lines of the first two verses were take-offs of lyrics I had written years ago but had never done anything with.  Using them felt like an appropriate homage to the "idea" of writing and recording songs in the past and the "actuality" of doing it now, thanks to a certain Technicolor girl.

City Lights

I am the only person in my family who doesn’t play guitar.  That has bugged me for years.  I don’t know why, but I just never took to it.

25 or so years ago, I tried to pick it up so I could surprise my dad by playing this song–one of his all-time favs (and mine)–for his birthday.  I couldn’t quite manage it.  I wanted to finally make good on that promise I made to myself, and I thought that my folks might be touched in the process…not to mention they might enjoy it.  Done and done.  If the tears of joy in my mom’s eyes are any indication, that is.

Note–this is not my song.  It’s a cover of the legendary Bill Anderson’s hit from, it turns out, 50 years ago.  So, Mr. Anderson, please don’t sue me.  I am not making any money from this–it was a present for my folks.  Just think of it as my way of celebrating your wonderful song’s golden anniversary.

Anyway, because I hate it when musicians simply regurgitate a song without putting their own spin on it–their interpretation–a certain amount of re-imagining was in the cards for this old standard.  My thought was to update it, but honor the spirit of the classic country sound of the 50s, when the song was released.  Also, the version(s) I remember were…faster, so they didn’t quite seem to capture the inherent and luxurious sadness of the lyrics.  I wanted to take a stab at accomplishing that, but to also inject an element of hope–not a lot, just a glimmer.  Tell it from the standpoint of a guy who’s walking down a long road with realization dawning on him.  Okay…enough…listen to the song, eh?

Truth

The most important lesson I have learned over the past 2+ years?  Even when you meet your life’s love, the work of love don’t stop.  In fact, it becomes all the more critical.  It’s least easy and most worth it.

While I was working on the other song, I kept saying to myself, "What I really wanna tell her is…"  I wanted to speak the "truth".  Put it out there that everything didn’t always look perfectly rosy, and the way is long and fraught with peril.  But that it was all good.  And that the long haul is what this guy’s all about.  …And that I love her–the noun and the verb.  Always.

The song came to me in a day.  Once the first line coalesced in my head (When will it sink in/Why must we always claim we’re sinking/When it’s miles from the truth), the rest simply fell into place.  It was almost like it wrote itself.

I thought that because it was only one instrument, it would make the song easier to manifest.  Wrong!  Because I "play" the guitar via my keyboard, I needed to go back and edit/refine almost every note just to get it to sound like this.  And I am still not quite convinced.  Or satisfied.  But…it ain’t a piano.

But I think it’s about the best song I’ve written.  At least my favorite.  I think they’re some of the best lyrics I’ve written.

 

Jukebox Saturday Afternoon

I realized that when I laid TRUE LIFE to rest, I also sacked a couple of song files that I wanted to keep active.

So, think of these as a little added bonus. A blast from the TRUE LIFE past…and a special bonus track!

All this for no extra charge, folks.

I know. It blows my mind, too.

Okay…all smarmy kidding aside, here are the links and a little commentary about each to refresh your memory about what these songs are and how they came to be. Enjoy.

Gold

I had been “writing” songs for years…in my head. My limited abilities at the piano made it difficult–if not impossible–to actually perform them. I always said, however, that if I had a multi-track recording studio and a keyboard wired up to some great sampled instruments, I could ding away and maybe put something together. Because though I am not confident that I could perform, I can compose. Meaning if I can slow time down and work (sometimes literally) one note at a time, I might be able to lay down some tracks.

Enter Garageband. The moment I launched it, I knew it was what I had been searching for. I threw together a few tunes on it, and I was in heaven. And I hadn’t even gotten the keyboard yet. Basically, my composing was manipulating loops and using the musical notation feature to build tracks note-by-note. It was quite tedious. But amazing.

Eventually, I got the keyboard and…nothing. I didn’t touch the thing. For, like, a year.

Then, of course, I met my Robbye. Suddenly, my world broke wide open.

I was waiting for a meeting on the Universal Studios lot one day marveling over this great, big love, when the first lyric popped into my head. It was sprang from a conversation Robbye and I had been having right before I left.

Color blind
Most of the time
Crashing into
The same auld lang syne

It hit me like a tone of bricks. I knew it was a song. I knew it was for her. And I knew what I was going to do with it.

She was the one, and this song was the one.

I would compose it and record it. And I would give it to her for Christmas. I never once asked myself how in the world I thought I could accompish that in three weeks or so, given my overloaded schedule. It was too important.

I sat down and wrote the rest of the lyrics in a single day.

For the next few weeks, I worked during the day, parented the kids, spent time with Robbye, and then came home and sat down at the iMac–sometimes till dawn–as I simultaneously wrote the rest of the song and taught myself how to “play” the keyboard and taught myself how to use the software…not to mention the art/craft of recording. And editing.

Ikes!

I was re-recording the lyrics literally two hours before I was supposed to give Robbye the CD. I was a wreck. But it all worked out fine. When I played it for her, she wept with joy. “No one’s ever written me a song.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

I listen to it now, and I hear all of the flaws. I think to myself that someday I will revisit…apply everything I’ve learned since then to fix some problems and finesse the thing. Then again, after I got done with Sacred Ground, which has enough problems in its own right, I thought again. Yeah…maybe someday, when I have a month of peace and quiet to just play. I have no idea when that will be. Besides, I have also learned, for all its wonder, a guy can only push Garageband so far. ProTools it ain’t.

And there’s a beauty–and I think an honesty–in it just the way it is. So, in some ways, I think that no matter how I improve it in the future, this recording stands on its own.

Anyway, this explanation got loooonnnng! Enjoy. It’s all me. No loops, save for the foundation of the 6/8 drum beat.

And it’s all her. Because the song says it all…with Robbye in my life, all that is old turns into gold.

Tarantino Slumbers

This is the second tune I created in Garageband. I discovered the kitchy 70s horn loop and visions of Kill Bill danced in my head. I imagined him sleeping and dreaming all that crazy shit up.

There ya go.

I didn’t have my keyboard yet, so this is a hodge-podge of loops, both extant and manipulated, and me plunking away note after note. It was pretty tedious, but I really liked the final product. I feel like it sounds like him.

Christopher Pike

I started cooking this up right after I finished Tarantino Slumbers. I envisioned creating this “album” that I would call Chemical Flask (No, Bill. I don’t think you’re over-ambitious. not in the least.).

I’ve been fascinated by the Christopher Pike character for years, and he’s a central figure in the Star Trek script I will never write, Star Trek: Facade. Okay…start cracking up now. Yup…make all the smart remarks you wanna. Knock yourself out. I will still be here when you return.

Done?

No..? Okay. I’ll wait.

Now?

All right.

Which, by the way (and if I may say without sounding to egotistical), the pitch has gotten rave reviews from everyone I’ve ever told it to–whether or not they were a Star Trek fan. I always thought it was a story that deserved to be told, but then that might simply be the uber-fanboy geek nerd dork freak in me talking shit again.

Anyway, I wrote this thinking about The Cage (or The Menagerie, depending on how you look at it).

I never finished it, and I really don’t know if I ever will. Maybe it’s better that way. For that, in itself, is so Christopher Pike. Or you can think of it like a rare, incomplete and unused take on the Beatles Anthology CDs. Remember those?

Yeah…just think of this like that. Except I’m not the Beatles. Details, details.