Nov 292011

One of the things keeping me busy and off the blog was the fact that we had our second house concert last week. When my husband had the first of these back in May he had wanted them to become a bi-monthly thing. Well, it took us a little more than that to put it together again. The idea was for him to play the kind of music he wanted to play with his then new project, and invite other musicians as well.

He had just started playing with a saxophone player we have known for years, and in the beginning it went quite well. After a while it turned out that the sax player wasn’t as comfortable with free improvisation as he had thought, and so my husband ended up alone again.

I, on the other hand, had been wanting to do some more improvisation for years. And had been looking for other musicians to do it with. I had thought about playing with my husband again, of course, but none of us was sure how that could go. Until about two or three weeks ago we decided to just try it. And it worked just fine!

So we decided on a date, invited a bunch of friends, bought potato chips, peanuts and drinks, set up about a dozen chairs, and had a concert at our house.

I’m really glad that so many people came to see us, and from what I heard and saw they did like the music too! It was a lot of fun, and it isn’t often that I say that about performing.

I didn’t sing much that evening, I was playing organ, drums, and ukulele in addition to singing. We changed instruments quite a bit so that things wouldn’t get boring.

At the end, after the encore one of the guests said, “And now I would like to hear the Les Paul with vocals.” And so we did. We had never tried that before because we thought it wouldn’t work. But that’s the thing about free improvisation, isn’t it? No need to plan everything ahead.

Emmy was nice enough to record that on her phone, so you can see and hear us too. Oh, and that weird look on my face near the end? That’s me realizing that the amp didn’t work anymore.

Jul 082008

First there was a blog post on the 50 songs in 90 days-challenge on the shy singer/songwriter-blog. Then I got my astrology newsletter where there was mention of a singer, and when I checked out the site there was a link to the Immersion Composition Society whose members challenge themselves to write 20 songs in a day. (By the way I like the music of Ultralash a lot but when I wanted to buy the CD I couldn’t because I don’t have an US paypal account. Meh.) I already sensed a theme here but I’m still not ready for writing music again. And just then I opened Neil Gaiman’s blog in my feed reader, and there was mention of his former web elf, and voilà, former web-elf has posted one-minute-songs to her site three times a week.


Did I mention that I still have about a gazillion things to do without even having touched any instrument?

Humph, indeed.

You know, I have bought myself a new recording thingy. And I already used it. Once. In April or so. Since then I have wanted to mix the recording. And I still haven’t done it. But here is the draft of the blog post I intended to write about it:

I actually got my own “connect the mike with the computer”-device last Thursday half a month six weeks ago. It’s called Onyx Satellite, hence this post’s title. [The post should have been called “I got my own satellite”.] However, due to life, and yarn expeditions I only unpacked it three days later. And managed to record a very short and not that exciting improvisation. Of course I wanted to present you with something really great but then I thought I’d better just post what I have. Because if I wait for something really great I might never get around to post music on my blog again. Using that thing is much easier than using the big mixer my husband has.

So now I’m doing something that no musician should do. Ever.

I’m posting a raw first take of a boring improvisation. Without having listened to it again.


Nice post, isn’t it? Even if it is a bit incoherent. The only problem is that I then had to listen to the improvisation again, and it had the deadly flaw of being far too soft. Not loud enough. When it started to play on my computer I checked and rechecked three times to see if the loudspeaker was on. So I couldn’t post it.

There was only one thing to do. I recorded another improvisation today. Which is based on a groove idea that I had on May 1. I carried that idea around in my head for more than two months. Then I connected my new recording device, everything was fine, I even remembered to check the levels, and then I sang it. It was beautiful. Really. Unfortunately you can’t hear it because for no good reason the computer didn’t record it. Which I found out after more than two minutes of singing. Then I had twelve minutes left before I had to leave to pick up my son. I recorded the thing again, well, something based on the same groove. I had seven minutes to mix it which is why I’m not completely satisfied with that artificial sounding reverb effect thingie.

But here, finally, is at least some music by me:

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I had wanted to make a new category on this blog like the “Story of the Month”-feature. “Monthly music” or, why not go wild, “Weekly Improvisation”. But, alas, it seems that a month in music is like six months in real life for me. But who knows. Maybe there will be something else before Christmas. Though I’m sure there won’t be 50 songs in 90 days.

Aug 162007

This is the first time ever that I have been tagged twice for something. By Lisa of u-handbag and another “bag lady”, Joanna of joanna bags. As far as I know this is just the basic 8 random things about me-meme.

  1. Something I wrote has been put up by another blogger. (We belong to the same writing group. Look at the top of her sidebar. (Well, her blog’s sidebar, really.)) It is quite macabre and not what I’m usually writing. I did it as a homework assignment for the writing group. The assignment was to write something titled “Open”. All I can say is that I read Neil Gaiman‘s Harlequin story from “Fragile Things” at that time.
  2. Just a few days ago did I realize that so far I have spent more than two weeks of my summer break waiting. I didn’t do anything that couldn’t be interrupted on the drop of a hat. So I did a lot of blog reading but not a lot of writing, making music or sewing.
  3. While I wrote a sweet little line in my last post about my feet being prone to dance I haven’t danced in years. One reason for this is that Germans don’t dance at parties. Another that I gave up jazz dance and hip hop when pregnant. I could just dance around the house, but I never do.
  4. I spent three of the last five weekends away from home. With my family. Each weekend involved an overnight stay complete with sleeping bags. Once we even packed the tent. We were at two parties, and visited with friends who live next to Austria.
  5. I have gone from an extravert to an introvert in the course of the last few months. When I first did the Myers-Briggs test in June I scored as a ENFP. I did it again at the beginning of August and now I’m obviously a INFJ. That’s Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judgmental. Now I know why I haven’t been enjoying parties anymore. Apart from parties among middle-aged couples being a little, um, boring, I have gone from the one in the middle of the crowd who tells the funny stories to the one at the edge of the crowd bringing her crocheting. And leaving early.
  6. I have felt quite lonely for the past few weeks. I turned 40 on July 27th, and apart from my family there was: an e-mail of a friend that came a week too early (She had remembered my birthday the first time ever though. We have been friends for almost 20 years.), a phone call on my answering machine a day late (A friend who told me she’d phone again a few days later. But she didn’t.) and a text message (I never send those) a week late from a friend of my husband. In a way I’m still waiting for a birthday card to arrive. But obviously I don’t have many friends left. – Interestingly I don’t feel lonely anymore since yesterday. You know what I did? I played the piano.
  7. The last thing I’m waiting for is a trip to Paris with my husband at the end of the month. I have never been there and have been wanting to see it for ages. I don’t really know what I want to see, maybe I’ll just soak up the atmosphere. We are only staying for three days so we won’t look at all the pictures, museums and whatnots. What would you want to see in Paris?
  8. If you want to hear me sing you can go to my husband’s blog and listen to our latest collaboration: dusk

First I thought everybody already did this so I didn’t want to tag somebody. But then I thought, “How about tagging people who don’t get tagged that often?” So I’m tagging Sabrina who has just moved to New York (an went on hunger-strike to get a job, obviously), Adrian who is on vacation but he will have to do it when he comes back, my husband for his German blog (This is for the ones of you who can read German.), and also I’d like to hear from the people reading here who don’t have a blog of their own. Leave your “8 things about me” in the comments, please.

(By the way you can leave anonymous comments here on my blog if you don’t have a google account but you can also go to the “other” option and just type a name into that form. You don’t even have to give an e-mail address.)

If you do have your own blog feel free to steal it.

Jul 052007

(There seem to have been people who were not able to listen to the song. If the player doesn’t show up or doesn’t work for you, try the link at the bottom of the post, please. Oh, and the songs starts with about 4 seconds of silence…)

Well, time to post another song. You might have noticed that the quality of the recordings is getting worse and worse. That’s because I started with something finished and now the songs I’m putting on the blog are getting sketchier and sketchier. (All the songs I have been posting so far can be seen under the label “hear me sing” in the sidebar.)

This really is like a pencil drawing compared to an oil painting. There should be an intro, there is a big drum-set-shaped hole in the middle of the whole song, there should be horns in the bridge… So, imagine the voice being warm and full, imagine the sorry excuse for an organ sound from my keyboard to be a real b3-hammond. You can also imagine that you’re sitting in a real jazz bar, sipping a glass of red wine while you’re at it.

I started writing this song when my son was ten months old in 2003. Teaching and parenting didn’t leave me with much energy for making music. So I committed to improvise on my piano and sing along with it every day. For ten minutes. When something extraordinary came up in the course of these improvisations I wrote it down.

Then life happened, nothing happened with those ideas until I started committing again two years later. Then I got stuck. My husband recommended recording what I had so far in order to be able to hear what was missing and what could be improved. So I recorded it in spring 2005. And then was now.

This is a song about how all things I create seem to be weird, alien and strange and I can’t help it. It’s also a song about that feeling of calmness and elation you get when you’re totally in the moment of creation. Here’s “Weirdness”:

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(You need Flash Player to hear it. If you can’t see a “play”-button to click on it (I have tried to fix it but I don’t really know why it didn’t work.) you can go and hear “weirdness” here.)

Apr 212007

I started dreaming about becoming a singer and writing my own songs at the age of 12 or so. I even did some improvisational attempts but my problem was that by the time I pinned something down on paper it had changed beyond recognition. That’s something I’m still struggling with but years of training have made me a little better and the marvels of modern technology let me record my ideas and then I can take my time.

In my twenties I played with the idea of song writing again. There were one or two ideas, things in my head and that was it. Despite this long history of longing the first song I ever wrote was a started in 1998. At that time I played in a Brazilian band with my husband, I wrote my dissertation and had just spent the whole year working on a paper for a music educator’s conference that should have boosted my academic career. I started teaching freelance only. And I went to one of Rhiannon’s workshops. I think it was my third or so. At the workshop we did an exercise to write lyrics. Then we got homework: to go home and make a song or an improvisation out of those lyrics or part of them. I loved that. I always thrive when presented with homework like that. Having someone external setting the frame frees me from my inner censor, perfectionist and procrastinator. I went home on the train a melody trilling away in my head.

At home I got the message that the paper I had worked on for nine months and that had been well received at the conference was rejected for publication. I was devastated. I phoned a tutor, I phoned my advisor and I was totally freaked. Then I sat down and wrote a new melody and harmonies. Since this was written for a singer’s workshop it requires a choir. The next day at the workshop I sat down at the piano and taught the other singers the harmony. I was said that I had only part of a song. For the next years it sat in a drawer waiting to be finished. I must have pulled it out from time to time and then put it back. In 2005 I decided to get serious with my music and to record the few songs I had. Since I don’t have a choir I worked again by overdubbing. I’m not entirely happy with the sound, and I’m still not sure if there shouldn’t be other instruments. So this is like a sketch:

I remember

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The lyrics were inspired by a trip we had made the year before to the Greek island Crete. We went there at the beginning of November when tourist season is over but the weather is still mild. Especially when you’re coming from the beginning of German winter.

[Update: I just listened to the song again and have to warn you, the beginning really is out of tune. See, I said it was a sketch. It is getting better later though.]

Apr 162007

I have been thinking about putting some of my songs on this blogs. But then I listened to them again and had the feeling that I should do them over before showing them to someone. But then I don’t plan to work on my songs for the near future. Instead of having them gather dust on a shelf (or on the computer) I thought you might be interested in hearing something original by me. Even if it isn’t perfect.

The following is an improvisation that I recorded in 2002. That’s something that’s “finished” as far as an improvisation can be finished. My husband made his first CD at that time and asked me to do vocal improvisation which he wanted to use as “raw material” for a song. Unfortunately you can’t listen to the song he has made of it. It’s called “Elusive Breath” and only features parts of it.

When he asked me to record something I procrastinated so long about it that he threatened to finish the CD without a song based on my singing. Then he showed me how to work the recording equipment so I could do this all alone, and left the room.

I decided to do something I had learned from Rhiannon. She is doing this exercise in her workshops, and it’s called “three faces front”. Everybody is sitting in a semi-circle and three singers stand in it. They are not allowed to look at each other but they are facing the “audience”. One of them starts improvising and the other two are supposed to “follow” it, harmonize or do counterpoint. After a time someone else leads.

Of course I had to change it since I’m only one singer, not three. This is overdubbed. The voice that starts it was recorded first and the other two I sang afterwards. What you’re hearing here is very long, about 8 minutes. It isn’t cut or anything.

After I recorded it I forgot all about it. (this may have been recorded while I was pregnant, I’m not sure.) When I was in the hospital because our son was born my husband gave me a CD of this improvisation for Christmas. He had taken all the time to mix and master it. This gift was his sign that he wanted to support my music even when we just had had a child.

3 faces

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(I have to warn you, it is quite weird.)

Dec 112006

For a couple of weeks now I have been trying to find a way to have audio on my blog. Without paying extra. And here it is. It is not pretty, you don’t have a nice little player right here, but if you click on the link you can hear me sing the song that I sang at my sister’s wedding. It is not a wedding song as such. It was written by Abbey Lincoln.

Throw it away

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For more music go to “Finally music for you“, a post with all the links to my husband’s songs.

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