Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I was going to record more tonight but it’s late & I’m tired. So -- well, I’ll see how I feel after I’m done here.

It’s not done. A few days ago I realized I had no strategy for sequencing and mastering. Borrowed analogue equipment, and no mix-down capabilities at home. Write write write, and then record, and that was as far as my little brain took me in the planning. And then the recording didn’t go as well as I’d hoped anyway.

I plan to re-record most or maybe all of it, and hopefully release it as planned. And hopefully stop maundering on about it hereabouts, until it’s done!

But since we’re talking about it, here’s what I got done, a bunch of things in 3 sections, plus an epilogue.

Part 1, Four Songs:

“Ms. Dish and Mr. Spoon,” a love story ballad of running away. Wrote the words first, then wrote a melody, then realized I didn’t like the melody. Wrote a new melody, then thought it was missing something. Wrote another verse and a coda, which may be my favorite part of the song. I love it when a nagging something pushes me to write further, and the nag ends up being right. On guitar.

“I Want to Talk About You,” a very short, repetitive love song. On piano! One of those songs where tunesmith John was working on something, and wordsmith John was working on something, and they got together and said, hey, these things go together! At which point wordsmith John had to rewrite everything.

“Go Back to Sleep My Little Cosmos,” a lullabye in 6/8. On guitar. Had a title, started playing a lick, started singing the title, went from there. Pleased with it.

“Guitar Guitar,” an ode to my longtime companion. (I bought mine in 1982.) Played (rather badly, so far) on piano, because it’s slightly tango-esque and lends itself thus.

Section 2, Improvisations and Sketches

“Lament (Improvisation 1),” fast legato play-anything piano, trying to play pretty and un-keyed, while improvising singing a slow modal wordless melody. Cathartic to do.

“No Insurance,” a very short (3 lines) a cappella song I mostly improvised. Made it up while playing a scratch rhythm on guitar-string-squeaks and recorded it that way, then decided I’d like it better a cappella.

“Words Words Words (Improvisation 2).” The idea was to strum the pitched metal bars of my toy piano while improvising talk-singing a nonsense word salad I wrote late one night. Recorded it, and close-miked the toy piano sounded like an awesome free-jazz gamelan thunderstorm, and the talk-singing sounded like a bad poetry reading. So I did it again and improvised words, words like, “Yeah, well, you know. . . . Oh no, that’s not, no, no. . . . You know, you know what I mean! . . .” And so on. Goofy -- hope you like it as much as I did!

“Still Seeking (Improvisation 3),” quiet pretty fast tone clusters on piano. Inspired by something Kyle Gann said on his blog: “Not all clusters are percussive.”

“Blue,” a 2-note harmonica thing, played 3 times, very slow.

“The Night Comes Crashing Down,” a poem spoken over a dissonant 6/8-ish guitar riff. Don’t know whether I pulled it off. Poem written the day after the election, which brings us to . . .

Section 3, The Most Important Demos of Our Lifetime

“Red State Blues,” a piano blues, with the climactic line borrowed from my friend Julie, who said it at a party the day after the election: “The point I’m making / With my song / 59 million people can be wrong!”

“Post-Election Unity March,” a setting of a piece of internet doggerel I pieced together from several sources, accompanied by crashing pot lids. According to a web search, the last lines date back to the aftermath of the 2000 election. “The election is over, the voting is done / My side lost, your side won / We should show by our thoughts and our words and our deeds / That unity’s just what our country now needs / Let’s all get together, let bitterness pass / I’ll hug your elephant, you kiss my ass.”

Medley: “A Lot of Us Were Hoping” / “Oh, It’s Nothing.” The first song is a bit of prose adapted from my first post-election blog post and sung to the Civil War-era song, “Aura Lee,” which later became “Love Me Tender.” Everybody sing along: “A lot of us were hoping we could finesse the inherent contradiction / Of being an enlightened empire / Spread peace prosperity and human rights at home and abroad / While still hanging on to our relative wealth / But on November Second a slim majority of the voters said / To hell with all that / They misunderstood forgave or supported the horrible track record / Of the anti-enlightenment incumbent.” And then it goes into an uptempo acoustic guitar rocker detailing some of the horrible track record, each item of the litany being answered with “Oh it’s nothing,” followed by a spoken-sneered wrongwinger rejoinder. Sample line: “Torture our prisoners to death, oh it’s nothing -- IT’S A FRATERNITY PRANK.” Not sure that it’s a good song, but it features a good harmonica solo.

And then the album’s epilogue, “God Bless America,” the Irving Berlin hymn, sung with bitter sincerity in very free rhythm with arhythmic guitar chord pulsing.

The only thing I didn’t record that I wanted to was a 3-word post-election-anti-unity chant, an homage to Judy Garland’s backstage pre-show warm-up with a 3rd word occasionally added, “all,” chanted over dissonant pounded fast quarter note 4/4 piano clusters. I may still record it.

A little disappointed at not having a finished Thing by now, but a mostly positive experience. Back to blogging about other people’s music soon!

And planning to keep writing songs and recording.

Very nice blog, hard to come by these days,

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It has all guitar related stuff.

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