Studio Journal 10-15-09


Its been a slow two weeks again, trying hard to make progress forward amid the endless distractions of life here. Somehow I’m unable to shift to the sort of focused work I did when I was rebuilding the house. Though I know that one culprit is sleep deprivation, because of my cat. Some nights she lets me sleep, others she wakes me every couple hours wanting something. I look at my calendar an over two weeks find three or four nights she kept me up, resulting in lost days afterwards. I can work, I just can’t focus, can’t do something serious like record. I make too many mistakes, and I want this be good, not the result of a sleep deprived struggle to perform. Though I have done that often enough in real life, and sometimes do it great, other times I forget the words, have no emotional energy. Sleep deprivation is one of the most debilitationg things I know. Even now, I was too tired to focus today after a bad night, so I went to sleep early. At 3 am here comes my cat wanting food, water, to get under the covers with me because she’s cold because the woodstove is cooling down. After trying to get back to sleep, I get up instead, restock the woodstove and fire up the computer to work again, rather than lie awake prey to negative thoughts, and be productive instead. I can’t believe its already time and past time for another journal entry!

Its not like I don’t stay busy. I use lists to keep track, and the calendar, and I work continually and get things done. My days are full, I do nothing but work, but nothing is so simple as being able to spend the day recording. I still have to work on the house. It’s turning cold and I bring in the plants. I have to think of the bigger picture, too. I cleaned up the porch so I have a place to set up the bandsaw and work on dulcimer building, as well as more trim for the house.

pickup winder october 2009

I was unable to repair the broken 8″ pickup on the dulcimer, though was able to take it apart and melt the wax on the woodstove, I couldn’t find the broken ends of the wire, and ended up with a tangled mess of broken ends. though perhaps with more care and more sleep I might have been successful. So I was distracted by a task I really needed to do anyway, repairing the pickup winder. I was able to find and install a new clock motor, pulling the motor out of a clock from the dollar store. Funny, the owner was an Afghan, and we talked about famous Afghan musicians from the 70’s. finished pickup october 2009 I wind a new coil on the old bobbin, pot it in wax and construct a new coil over the course of a couple days. I still have to solder it into the wiring on the dulcimer, but then I will be able to start recording the dulcimer parts. In the bigger picture, I can get more aluminum U-bar and start winding more coils so I have replacements, and start experimenting with a prototype switching coil.

I had to have a full working set on the dulcimer to move forward with recording, now I did.

playing guitar on the porch

Every day I was working on the new and old originals, singing them on the guitar. I have recorded the guitar and lead vocals for “My Little Friend”. Finally the first progress on recording. Perhaps a bad choice, since I just wrote it and it hasn’t had time to settle into a groove, so I am not sure quite what tempo to record it as. I did a whole session, then decided it was way to slow, and did it all over again, actually doing four versions. stepping up the tempo one beat each time. It is more important to move forward than bog down trying to decide. I can choose later. Also, like many of my songs, there is no one version. As I play there are at least two obvious tempos, a faster and slower version, which is the case with many songs. One is more reminiscent and reflective, and the other is more upbeat and present, more like being there, playing with a child, and being a child to play with them in that upbeat happy world, rather than the slower, quieter though still upbeat and happy, of an adult tlaking to another adult about playing with a child. A song is storytelling, and all the nuances of what you say comes from the character you play, and who you are speaking to, and as here, whether you are present in the event, or describing it to someone as a remniscence.

playing at Potters House coffeehouse

Though I don’t think about this when I am singing, I can’t think, that would take energy from the music. I am lost in the song then, but I know it is that set and setting, who I am and how I am feeling that creates the mood and subtle messages within the song. Singing is acting, and acting is being, believing. I have to be myself to be real. I am living it as I sing it, and what perspective I am living it from shapes what comes out of me. I come from a theater and writing family. Part of what I learned as an actor is that a role on stage, or now a song, must be the tip of the ice-berg. That there has to be a whole, real person, a whole life, behind the small bit that appears on stage, or it won’t be real. For that is reality, a small interaction in the moment with a lifetime of experiences going into it, into the character that is speaking, that is singing. You have to know not just what you are saying, but why, what experiences and thoughts have lead to this point, thoughts and experiences that are never experessed within the speech, or the song, but must be there for it to be real. The listeners have to feel that depth behind the words. For the actor or singer, there it better to really be there, sincerely feeling the role, and depend on nature to control the subtle inflections of voice that convey deeper meaning to words, than try to do it consciously. I can sing the same words, the same song, and make it totally different depending on the mood I choose, the mood I am in. That I can do consciously, can choose to feel a certain way about the story I am telling. My music is all about sincerity, finding songs that express what I really feel, or I don’t sing them. Emotions are complex, though, and I can feel many ways, both happy and sad about something, and express it both ways at different times, different days, or different times of my life as I sing a song through years and decades of my life. Sometimes I reach a point where I am able to express many facets of complex emotion, happiness and sadness, satisfaction and discontent, all in a few words, a few inflections within a single word. Those are the great songs, so real, for the life of the heart and soul are seldom so simple to color.

playing guitar in the diningroom

So I starting talking about the music and I have start running on, but I am into it. I can spend hours thinking about a song, or even more, my mind filled with the images and life that led to the song. Sometimes so much I need to move a different song, give my heart and soul a rest from the hard to be places the song takes me. I do think about the song itself, too though, wondering about one word, or how to say that word. It is strange, because so often the song comes out all in a rush. Even if the words are not all there, complete, the vision is, the play of images, the feelings, or the well and root of emotion I am tapping into. But even still, afterwards, I am not always sure what I am trying to say. When the heart and soul speaks, it is not always so clear. And a song is just a song, too, and can’t say it all, it often is capturing just some little part, and not trying to be complete. So I can look back on what I have written, and wonder what it was, what it is, that I am trying to say, and not be sure I know.

I also have kept working on the website rebuild, which I have only started, really. When I get too tired to work on other things, I go to the computer and try to get in a few more hours of progress. I keep tracking down and addressing aspects of the website or web presense. The new website is almost a year old, and I just discovered the old website is still up and active on the old server, and in fact, I can still access it. I expected to find a redirect. So I added a notice to the old site that it’s now an unmaintained legacy site, and a posted a link to the new site. I might have to do that for many of the 100 old pages. I do a google search and see both my sites at the top, and the old one often outranking the new one. It is strange, I have always had such a high ranking, perhaps snce I have been on the net from the beginning. But the way google works, there is no simple way register them as the same site, and the old site is no longer operating officially. Technically, it is because the old website is a subdomain and you can’t register a “change of address” for a sub-domain. But Google also gives me some great site tools, so I am able to track back and notify everyone who’s site is linked to mine so they can update their links. I’ve also been trying to slowly go through all the email addresses in my contact list and let everyone know what I have done this summer with the site and this web journal. I could send a bulk mail, but I’d rather do it one at a time, there is no rush, and be able to at least try to write a personal note to everyone if I can. Though sometimes an email address just boggles my mind as to who it belongs to, even though every address is someone I have been in contact with somehow. Other times it is easy, or their name is atached to it, and it is nice to be able to touch base with them again.

relief supplies

I’ve also been a bit distracted by going out to meet up with people. A couple weeks ago I helped host a small fundraiser for Filipino reflief that Jane (the promoter) put together. I ended up with boxes of supplies in the filling the back of my old corolla.. modern corollas just don’t have the practical room for stuff like the old ones. So later in the week I dropped them off at the central shipping location. A good work, certainly, and glad to do it, but a distraction none the less. I am dedicated to service, so this is what I want to do, and I struggle with the ideas that “doing more” with the dulcimer really is a justifiable “good work”. that it isn’t about me personally, but about doing what so many have asked me to do, and because it is the right thing to do, what would be obvious to me if I were someone else looking at me, looking at the dulcimer really. It is all about the dulcimer, and the music. And perhaps, getting back to what I once did, using the most powerful tool I have to try to make a better world.

yep. 4:30 am and my cat wanted to go outside, in the rain, and then 15 minutes later she wants to come back in, be dried off and warmed up in my lap. At least I am awake, and better a wet cat in the lap than crawling into bed with me. Even better, I was able to restock the woodstove, which is even better than my lap. Tonight I went to sleep at 11 pm at least, before she woke me at 2:30. A lot better than if I had just been trying to go to sleep at 2:30 or 3 am, my usual schedule, then have the cat wake me then, and again at 4:30, and at 4:45, and then at 7 or 8, and 9 or 10.. you see how it goes.

I also went out to a Singer-Songwriter circle at a great little old-style coffeehouse-bookstore, my favorite type of place. I should go back there again. I was there partly to get out, and to give the organizer some video I shot of one of her songs and one other songwriter at the last meetup. I pulled out another new-old one, “The Last Drop”, that I wrote years ago and never started playing, like “little Friend”. It was interesting for the circle because I started out sort of thinking it would be a song about one thing, but as it came out to be about something else. Goes to show that a song has a life of its own, not what you intend it to be. As well, how while I might have thought I was going to write about something that mattered, there was something else in me that mattered more and needed to get out, and once the first verse openned the door, out it came. The key point is I got a great song out of it, that I might have ruined or lost if I had kept on trying to make the song be what I intended, what I “wanted” to write about, instead of let it be what it was. In the end they liked it so much we ended the session by all jamming to that song as sang it again. And the organizer said one of the songs I had sung last month, “You Watching Me” had stuck in her head for a week. A good sign.

I also spend hours composing letters to my congress people and president. I try to get one off a week, thiese are important times. As a rational leftist, there’s not much representation for me in government, still I can try to at least let my reps know my opinions. I really look at it as public service, what my life is dedicated to, as civic duty. Though I focus on the issue of the day, like health care right now, there is only so much to say, so I go on to other subjects. And since most of my reps are Republican and don’t care much about my opinions, still, a couple are Democrats, though often enough, they haven’t been so much better. But it is only my actions I am responsible for. So I write. Partly trying to point out the simple rational truths in a overheated culture of misinformation, misrepresentation, and denial, the story of my life, partly just weighing in, partly trying to balance the fact that I feel I am not out there on the streets roabble rousing.

wooden buddha

5 am, better wrap this up and try to get some sleep before the cat, or my visiting relatives wake up. Though my sister is here with my niece. I’ll have to play “little Friend” for her, since it came out of the years not so long ago when I was a primary babysitter for her, and we would play, and then at night, as she went to sleep, I would tell her stories.. of sailboats and pirates on islands far away, and kidnapped princes, and of course, the clever princess who saves him and the whole village. I made up a series of those stories for her. And sang her songs, of course.

So I struggle with the fact that October is going away and I haven’t gotten a single song finished, and this was the project I came here to do. I know that if I just keep on pushing ahead I’ll get it done, but I also try to prepare once again for not gettig in done this year, just wahat I was afraid of back at the beginning. Or the feeling that am rushing things, or getting tired of the project before I have begun, wanting to move on to to other things, other sounds, while the recording has become a chore. I miss performing. I can’t go on not making money. And other thing, like repairing the van for the winter tour, or a round of housework before I leave, or even just filling the woodshed, begin to loom as distracting priorities. But tomorrow I’ll be back to work, putting some bass vocals on “Little Friend”, then Flute tracks, and then start on the next song.

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