So Much New Music Coming Out

So. Much. Good. Music.

As I write this, I’m listening to Paul Simon’s new album, So Beautiful or So What and am blown away by how fresh, how vital, how powerful this music is and how relevant Simon remains as an artist and a musician. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few of the other releases that came out today:


Meat Puppets: *Lollipop*


Alison Kraus & Union Station: *Paper Airplane*


KD Lang: *Sing It Loud*


"Build a Rocket Boys!" (Elbow)


"Into Battle With the Art of Noise" (Art of Noise)

Next week sees new releases such as


Gorillaz: *The Fall*


"Setzer Goes Instru-MENTAL!" (Brian Setzer Orchestra)

Then the following week (April 26) we will get


Emmylou Harris: *Hard Bargain*


"I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive" (Steve Earle)


"Sign Of Life, Music For 858 Quartet" (Bill Frisell)


"Ending on a High Note: Final Concert" (A-Ha)

and . . .

(wait for it . . . wait for it . . .)

Rockabye Baby: Lullaby Renditions of the Flaming Lips

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to avoid spending way to much money on music this month . . . oh, right, my paychecks stop at the end of April and don’t resume until September. That might help me remember not to buy every album I want.

Might.

Of course, if you buy any of these through the links here, you’ll help me get some Amazon Associate’s scratch that might help me get a couple of them. Hint. Hint. Well, actually that’s not so much a hint as an obvious plea.

Anyhoo . . . off to concentrate on this new Simon album and ponder all the fabulous new music coming up.

Shutting Out the World

Sitting on the bus Thursday morning on my way to teaching Intro to Performance and the movie moment happens: an attractive woman makes eye contact and sits next to me. Her body language indicates that she would be open to talking with me (and let me be clear here, I’m not expecting that she is open to anything more than a friendly conversation and do not read this invitation as anything more than it is). However, there’s a problem. I have, as usual, my earphones in and will need to take them out in order to begin a conversation. Which I do in as subtle a way as possible so as not to appear too eager and you know what, we had a pleasant conversation for a few minutes and how knows, maybe meeting for coffee or a drink will occur if we see each other on the bus again.

But that’s not really the point I wanted to make.

This incident reminded me just how isolated I usually make myself in public with my earphones and music. How many encounters (not necessarily with pretty women) have I not had simply because there was no space for casual observations on the weather or the the elevators at school or the myriad of other small conversation openings that might occur to two humans in the same space?

Now, I generally don’t like the noise of a city or on the bus or traffic, etc., and I love music, and I carry an iPhone that let’s me listen to my favorite Internet radio station in the world Radio Paradise anywhere I like, so it feels entirely natural to plug myself into my music whenever I leave my house.

Yet…

I am going to try an experiment. I am going to go for just 3 consecutive days next week without listening to music while I am out and about. Just three days. I can do that. It will feel odd and perhaps be uncomfortable on the bus or, especially, when waiting a while for the bus at night. However, it will only be for a few days, so I can deal.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Taking the Stage at Blood from a Turnip

Last night I did something I haven’t done in something like 8 or 9 years. Sing and play guitar for an audience. Additionally, last night I did something I haven’t done in probably close to 20 years: perform live with another musician.

How’d it go? All things considered, it could have been much, much worse. But let me back up and provide some context.

~~~

Blood from a Turnip is a late night puppetry salon that is hosted by Perishable Theatre. It happens every two months, September – May and usually presents 4 – 6 short puppet shows. Now these aren’t your children’s puppet shows and, sometimes, you might even end up asking yourself just exactly how what you saw was a puppet. The productions can range widely in artistry, with some being finely crafted performances and others being experimentations still in search of their final shape. The evening is loose and friendly, with the audience being a very sympathetic and kind one. Every show also includes a musician or musicians performing in between puppet shows to serve as a bridge for the set changeovers and to pack in even more entertainment value for your $5.

Perhaps because I’d been watching too much “Dr. Horrible”—wait, is there such a thing as too much “Dr. Horrible?”—upon returning from a BfaT show last fall, I decided to write a series of songs that would provide a kind of origin story for the existence of the program. Over the space of 3 days, I’d written 4 songs: “Paradise Falls: the Legend of Steve,” “When Puppets are Your Friends,” “Evelyn,” and “His Puppet Shows.” These songs introduce the town of Paradise Falls and the main characters: Steve and Evelyn. I started talking to Perishable’s Artistic Director, Vanessa Gilbert about the possibility of presenting this song cycle at one of this season’s BfaTs and she agreed. Several months later, I finally found my next song for the cycle and wrote “Her Name Was Sophie,” which tells the story of why a curse is placed on Evelyn. This curse is the cause of Steve’s final, heroic act which explains the reason the program is called “Blood from a Turnip.” At this point, I presented the material to those involved with curating BfaT. The response was positive and also helpful and we decided to present “Paradise Falls: The Legend of Steve” at the final show of the season. At this point, I was still imagining that I might find someone other than myself to perform the songs since, while I was . . . am proud of the piece, I recognize my limitations as a performer. However, it turned out that the performance was indeed going to be led by myself, along with Vanessa Gilbert on accordion and performing the vocals for Evelyn and the old woman who places the curse on Evelyn. Over the past few weeks, I wrote the final two parts, “Steve’s Final Show” and “When Puppets Are Your Friends, Reprise,” as Vanessa and I began rehearsing.

If I am confident in my abilities as a writer of words and even songs and a certain limited style of music, my technical abilities as a guitarist and singer are only serviceable at best and rather shaky when it comes to live performance. Still, I had a lot of fun working on the music with Vanessa and actually playing music with someone instead of just being stuck in my bedroom with my guitar and my computer.

So, last night, I performed.

~~~

It didn’t suck. At least not much. And I cannot stress enough just how fortunate I feel that Vanessa wanted to work with me on this project. If I had been by myself on that stage, I would have been far more nervous and my mistakes would have been far more obvious and the music would have been far thinner with just me and a guitar, and, truthfully, I would have had far less fun on the journey from writing to performing. So she has my sincere gratitude for her part in this project and last night’s performance. My dissatisfaction in the experience was actually ameliorated by her presence and talent and insight and support.

That said, I didn’t exactly have fun, nor do I feel particularly good about last night’s performance. Mostly because I really like these words and these songs and this story and feel that they deserve better than I could offer as a musician. Ideally, I would love to hear this whole project done by other people would could bring it to life in ways that are simply beyond my technical means. I think the spirit of the piece managed to get through to most of the audience, and I don’t think anyone suffered too much from my wrong chords and occasionally off-key singing. I would like to hope that I was able to offer a few moments of humor or joy or beauty last night.

And so, I am ok now with it all. Last night I was a bit down about my performance, even while I kept telling myself that, given how long it’s been since I’ve done anything like this, I did pretty damn well. Still, I do wish my songs could have been delivered with a bit more polish and expertise and that will probably not change no matter how much I make peace with my own flawed but sincere and heartfelt performance.

~~~

So where does “Paradise Falls: The Legend from Steve” go from here? Who knows? When I wrote it, I always wanted to provide a richness to the town and the people in the story that might inspire someone, sometime, to take a character or two and create their own stories. Perhaps a “Paradise Falls: Sophie’s Tale,” or “Paradise Falls: The Adventures of Evelyn.” I still hold out hope that someday I might be able to hear better musicians present it. But until then, I will share it with you.

The following recording is actually not from last night’s performance, but from our rehearsal the day before. Because we didn’t have any sound system for rehearsal, I recorded it on my laptop using a Blue Snowball Mic which, while not stellar, did a pretty good job of recording our work. I’m not posting the performance recordings for several reasons. First, the mics we were using weren’t the best and so the mix is not great. Thanks to Dave Higgins for doing his best with the limitations we faced, but the recording levels are just too heavy on the vocals and light on the guitar. Second, and more importantly, I was nervous and not having fun, whereas the night before, even though there are a few flubbed lines and some flat singing, I was really enjoying myself and it comes through. Despite the mistakes and the fact that I wish I had a bit more presence on Vanessa’s vocals and accordion in these recordings, the rehearsal versions came out better than the performance.

If you are a fan of Perishable’s Blood from a Turnip, or if are involved with puppetry and want to use this work or create your own spin-offs from it, please feel free. “Paradise Falls: The Legend of Steve” is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Wood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Thanks again to everyone who helped make these songs and this story happen.

Enjoy.

~~~

Paradise Falls: The Legend of Steve

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Paradise Falls: The Legend of Steve Lyrics