HBD – TWLITF – 20Y // In Metal

I remember driving on one misty day in central Minnesota. The hills were neatly plowed like some giant zen garden and the clouds meandered through them, slow and steady. I’m listening to Low’s 2001 album “Things We Lost in the Fire”. The drive is long and uninterrupted. There is no traffic. It is Sunday afternoon. The album plays out and I am pulled deeper and deeper in with each track. I’m in another world.

Music can so perfectly outline a moment.

Happy 20th birthday to one of my very favorite albums: Thing’s We Lost in the Fire

To celebrate, I’ve recorded a cover of the album’s closing track “In Metal”.

Lyrics:

Filling holes with tiny sounds
Shiny from the inside out
Picture of you where it began
In metal
In metal

Partly hate to see you grow
And just like your baby shoes
Wish I could keep your tiny body
In metal
In metal
In metal

Symmetry of Snow

            Snowflakes are cool. I often forget this, but it just takes a good look in between swear fueled shovels of snow to remember that each one is a tiny pointless little masterpiece forged in the chaos of nature by no one for no reason. I don’t know why they look like that or why I would think that that is a cool way to look, but I enjoy the fact that I enjoy them.

            People are cool. I often forget this, but it just take a good look in between swear fueled bouts of road rage to remember that each one is a tiny pointless masterpiece that awoke from dust to feel pain, yell at things, and fear its return to dust. I don’t know why they look that way or why I would think that that is a cool way to look, but I enjoy the fact that I enjoy them.

Everything is cursed into perfect balance. Merry Christmas!

Lyrics:

Brother, now father, and father: grandfather
And grandfather left years ago
Ice clouded grass, waiting winter to pass
Time frozen and stilted in growth


Sister, now mother, and mother: grandmother
And grandmother knew when to go
Rows of streetlights all begin to ignite
Weaving shadows long over the road


Then all life stops
Feather drop
Of tiny flakes
In perfect shape


Soft white felt
Quick to melt
Fleeting Beauty
The symmetry of snow


Student, now teacher, and teacher will teach
All the students to teach and then know
Stalactites of ice draping branches of pine
Under glass marble moons hanging low


Tomorrow’s today and today: yesterday
And yesterday is so long ago
The next year will pass once again in a flash
And the infants to grandparents grow


Then all life stops
Feather drop
Of tiny flakes
In perfect shape


As they fell,
Emanuel!
A god of grace
I saw its face
My grandma died
My niece arrived
Fleeting Beauty
The symmetry of snow

Fast Driving Cars

            This is a piece that I wrote in the spirit of Thanksgiving and fast cars. It was written freely without an agenda or even idea to convey, so it’s full of non-sequiturs. Still, the mind can’t really do “randomness” so the results are, at least for me, evocative. I have a lot of tangental thoughts about it that I considered sharing here but I don’t want to pollute any interpretation, so instead here are some sick pictures of fast cars that I drew as a kid.

Fast Driving Cars
HELL YEAH! Look at those trucks hitting it head on in a stadium! Looks like one of the cars only has 4 wheels… HUGE MISTAKE! Unless those two can un-pancake their engines, I think there is a pretty clear winner here.
WOOOHHHOOOOO!!!!! Look at that puppy PULL! Look at the SUSPENSION, look at the ROLL CAGE WIND-SHEILD, look at the TREAD!! Whoever was driving that dopey little box car should be thankful that this miracle of modern engineering was there to tow it. Dang, that small car appears to be OFF THE GROUND and flying through the air because of the near impossible speeds that this thing can !TUG! at.
WHEW!!! I COULD USE ONE OF THOSE RIGHT NOW!!!!! This is a true dream car for any Minnesotan who is about to enter into the snowy winter months. Fricken SKIS on the front!? Looks cold out there, but this snow dog is still RUNNIN HOT!!! LOOKS AT THOSE FUMES! Pretty dope perspective on the chassis of that hunk as well.

Lyrics:

Oh my god this car drives fast
Took us to a field of ash
Red eyes and feeling faint
Lead foot and severed brakes
 
God, you know the way I pray
Never knowing what to say
And the way I fold my hands
Palming all my contraband
 
Oh my god this car needs gas
An Oil change and renewed tabs
Look at all the chipping paint
Radiator’s rusted tank
 
God you know I only pray
When I’m desperate and afraid
And the way I bow my head
Instead of reverence only dread
 
Somewhere I have made a wrong turn casually
How could I have not seen what’s in front of me
 
Oh my friends I hope you find
The life that you had in mind
You all are spread too thin
No time for maintenance
 
And if you let me go
I’ll consider it an act of hope
We all can see the cracks
And no one calls each other back
 
Somewhere I have made a wrong turn casually
How could I have not seen what’s in front of me
 
In cars that drive this fast
Everything blurs past
At such a break-neck pace
We all could use some grace
 
God you know I never pray
But I’m always giving thanks

Have a great Thanksgiving folks!

ZANN!

Harry Potter Lovecraft

            I’ve played in pit orchestras for a lot of musicals, and my one universal across the board criticism of them is that none are adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories (There actually is one, but it’s *ugh* a parody).

            This week I have decided to be the spooky change that I want to see in the world by writing the opening number to a musical adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story “The Music of Erich Zann”.

            The story is about a college student who gets an apartment underneath a viol player who plays weird music every night to appease some horrible power. He gets to know the guy, spooky things happen, the nature of existence is in questioned, and exc. It holds up well, it’s super short, and you can read it here.

            It’s a lesser-known work, but Lovecraft claimed that he was the most proud of it. There is something evocative about an artist who creates not to please audiences or gain them fame, but to fend of some kind of darkness. I’m sure Lovecraft, troubled as he was, could relate to that sentiment.

Here is the rough sketch of the opening number of my (soon to be) hit musical ZANN!

Credits: Me. I unfortunately play all the parts.

Note: The collage student/main character is nameless in the short story. I named him Edward.

Script:

(Edward walks onstage in front of the curtain)

Edward:         I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil. These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change. I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place; and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann.

(Curtain opens to reveal a tall building. The Landlord stands outside waiting for Edward and Erich Zann stands in the top floor window.)

Landlord:       Why hello there, you must be Edward.

Edward:         Uh, yes. Hello, thank you for meeting me so late into the evening.

Landlord:       BAH! What is evening to those who cannot sleep?!

Erich Zann:    High up, cold air from my window. Look at all the people, never knowing fear.

Edward:         This is such an intriguing building.

Landlord:       Well, it’s one of a kind!

Erich Zann:    Somewhere, underneath this city, an all-consuming darkness, swallower of time.

Edward:         It’s so close to the university.

Landlord:       We are practically neighbors!

Erich Zann:    I play, accompany in dismay alien bells ringing, ancient voices singing, rupturing the air.

Edward:         Well, this seems perfect, but I’m afraid I don’t have much of a budget for lodging…

Landlord:       Ah, well there is always the 5th floor…

Edward:         Is there some problem with the 5th floor?

Landlord:       Oh absolutely nothing… if you don’t mind music. There is a musician on the floor above and he practices from 1 to 6… *ahem* am that is. You can hear him now, listen.

Erich Zann:    Nightly, I can feel its presence, fostering my madness, making me insane.

Edward:         What an otherworldly music!

Erich Zann:    Lately, it has gotten stronger. I cannot contain it, worming in by brain!

Landlord:       Haha, Quite! He’s a real mad genius that Erich…

Townsfolk:     ZANN!

Clock tower:   Eins!

Townsfolk:     ZANN!

Clocktower:    Zwei!

Townsfolk:     Up the hill on Rue d’Auseil, you hear the madman’s viol play. So weak and frail, a cosmic pawn, the music of one Erich Zann.

Erich Zann:    High up, cold air from my window. Look at all the people, they do not know fear.

Edward:         I really will not mind the music.

Landlord:       Perfect!

Erich Zann:    Somewhere, underneath this city, an all-consuming darkness, harbinger of DEATH!

Landlord:       I’ll just need your signature here and here.

Edward:         Very well.

Erich Zann:    My eyes dilate in shadow, sawing notes with my bow quivering in fear.

Edward:         I must meet this Erich Zann…

Erich Zann:    I can… I cannot continue, every night is torture, draining me of life.

Edward:         His music is so peculiar…

Erich Zann:    I pray that some day soon my hearing…

Edward:         It sounds like…

Erich and Edward:    Alien bells ringing, ancient voices singing…

Edward:         So pleasant to my…

Erich Zann:    Will rupture both my…

Erich and Edward:    Ears.

Townsfolk:     ZANN!

Clock tower:   Drei!

Townsfolk:     ZANN!

Clocktower:    Vier!

Townsfolk:     ZANN!

Clock tower:   Funf!

Townsfolk:     ZANN!

Clocktower:    Sechs!

YIKES! I know something is good when I oscillate between incredibly proud and cripplingly embarrassed while listening to it. Happy Halloween!

Stickerbush Symphony

            This addition to the graveyard is a (personal) classic and lighthearted instrumental piece from circa 2010, a time when I would spend a lot of time improvising and editing little tunes, usually in one sitting, to practice recording. It is classic to me because of how reminiscent it is of one of my favorite video game compositions of all time:

            I don’t remember trying to emulate Stickerbush Symphony but I did play a lot of Donkey Kong so… the hook’s in deep.

            In other news, I’m writing a lot of holiday music for the holidays so look forward to that in the coming weeks. Follow this blog if necessary.

I could do a Tedx talk on Donkey Kong music.

The Graveyard – Pentobarbital

            Most of what I create never sees the light of day. I feel a sense of urgency when I’m making something, but that energy never maintains itself when it is time to show it off. Psychology aside, this leaves me with a not unsubstantial back catalogue of unreleased material, material that I have decided to place here in “The Graveyard.” I’m calling it “The Graveyard” because everything that I post in this category will be material that I have no plans for. Dead material if you will. This is where I bury it.

            Fittingly, this first piece is a song I wrote after putting my family’s dog Einstein down a little over a week ago. Pet deaths suck because you almost feel guilty for feeling any remotely powerful sense of grief over them. It is a pretty common occurrence that shouldn’t cork up your life all that much, but like any of the litany of impossibly sad things in life, it can tear you up if you open yourself to it. But opening myself up to these kinds of things is what I consider to be the blue-collar, hard work responsibility of my artistry, no matter how melodramatic it might seem. Happiness sings its own song but sadness needs to be transformed into one. In this case that song is called:

Pentobarbital

Lyrics:

The paling leaves
On the way to Long Prairie
County 75
Autumn resting in your eyes
I still see you taking laps
Begging for my table scraps
Those seizures must keep you awake
Good boy sure knows how to shake
 
But you don’t care at all
Pentobarbital
When you start to fall
Pentobarbital
 
Remember I picked you out
The only one that wasn’t loud
And when we got you home
You wouldn’t leave me alone
And then you slept in my bed
Quivering, your nervous head
September now, I watch you fade
Stupid dog, I thought I taught you how to stay
 
But you don’t care at all
Pentobarbital
When you start to fall
Pentobarbital
You don’t care at all
Pentobarbital
When you start to fall
Pentobarbital
 
Nothing can be fought
You’re dizzy in the parking lot
And these lungs aren’t mine
They’re pumping fast and out of time
Today my niece turns one
I’m sure the party will be fun
Neon pink into your leg
Don’t worry Einstein, no one’s going to make you beg
 
Don’t take much at all
Pentobarbital
My God, are we so small?
Pentobarbital