Tag Archives: creative process

Swimming with Swans – March(ing) to the Studio

Southern Harmony Recording StudioLast Thursday marked the beginning of forward movement towards the recording of Swimming with Swans: the music.  I met with Ken*, the sound engineer and owner of Southern Harmony recording studio here in FloTown**.  I had a fantastic time sharing my project, discussing needs, working through technical details and listening to his expertise as applied to contexts unique to solo & ensemble classical guitar.

I am so glad I went with my gut on using this studio for my solo pieces.  The selection of quality recording studios nearby is limited.  I vetted several this past year covering a 3 hour driving radius and came up with a scattering of possibilities all over the state, but really, the best for my needs are located in Raleigh/Durham, NC.  Hubby being my #1 patron and supporter of my art is keeping those options open for me to use if I decide to go that route, regardless.

Original musical monkey in journal

A page from my journal…

I have to admit that until moving to and living in Florence, SC I took basic musician needs for granted.  This scarcity of a vibrant, well-rounded arts-scene will no doubt be a foreign concept/truth to grasp for many of my colleagues.  It certainly was for me, but – it is what it is and I’m thrilled to have cracked the code to a satisfying solution; enabling me to thus move forward and march*** to the studio.

There is one other semi-appropriate studio in Colombia that Joe and I toured during his Thanksgiving visit.  It was more attuned to the needs of classical/jazz musicians, but the space didn’t feel good.  It offers the use of a superior quality grand piano, but that’s not something I need. Also, the sound engineer didn’t have any project tracks to play for me to listen to that were relevant to my instruments.  The ones we gave a listen to were mostly of brass instruments, which sounded great…but.  After doing some of my own digging on the internet for sound samples from his client list, I found a few background tracks with acoustic guitar that sounded – well, let’s just say they were not to my liking.

As a musician, the bottom line is one’s tone, one’s sound. If that gets messed up, no amount of playing technique or flourish will save the day.  After listening to some of Ken’s current projects highlighting a variety of acoustic instruments, I believe I can trust his ear.  We certainly have a great rapport, which also counts as a keen element in the recording process/experience.

The Prisloe, Mo Giolla Mear, the ZOOM H4n & PillowMeanwhile, I’m doing time on the ole’ practice stool, fine tuning my solo pieces, getting ready for recording and keeping up my chops.  I hope to start sessions by mid-late March.

I am definitely psyched…

 

 

*If you visit Southern Harmony, you’ll find Ken is quite modest…his creds include an impressive resume of work in the LA scene for most of his 20 years of experience before moving to FloTown,  yet not listed on his website.
**Local name for Florence, South Carolina
***Yes, pun is intentional.

From the Practice Stool: Mo Giolla Mear (an excerpt)

My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

My hand scored copies alongside newly entered NOTION scored parts of Mo Giolla Mear

The other day I came off of the practice stool elated.  It was one of those sessions where everything went right.  The tone from my perfectly honed right hand nails emitted a luscious aural tapestry of sound while working through completed scores of my own creation or arrangement.  Fluidity of movement in the left hand during execution of certain passages, coupled with the flow of interpretive playing all within acceptable tempos…this is my dance, this is my place, this is my praise to the Giver of Gifts.

I was particularly pleased to master specific measures in my classical guitar arrangement of the traditional Celtic piece, Mo Giolla Mear. Written during our between homes time, it is part of my Swimming with Swans: the music project.

Yes, there is an entire story behind the discovery of this piece of music and how it relates to our life on the road.  It remains scattered in the bits and nits of my mind, journals and ‘little list’ e-mail updates jotted down at the time.  For some reason the words do not come easily right now.  The challenge remains for me to sit down, focus and craft a vignette to include in my Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes manuscript.

However, while immersed in my music, that challenge is mercifully set aside. Continue reading

Potholders, Project Progress and The Sound of Paper

Surrounded by Introducing Fractal Geometry and May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude, Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper sits amongst an elite stash of books which grace the backside of my desk work surface.  Picking it up, I opened its pages to where I last placed a 2004 Barnes & Noble bookmark and began reading.

Searching for words to cup a myriad of incoherent and vague thoughts swarming about my heat-wave induced spacey-brain, I came across practical encouragement in my current state of conundrum.  That state of wild productivity amidst desperate isolation, struggling to finish projects that are taking on the shape of completion.

Oh – so – slow – ly.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say my ‘Mojo stopped Mojoing’ but I have come up wanting in the energy department of late.  The constant drain of daily in-ing and out-ing in this humid triple digit heat has taken its toll.  The term languid suggests more than a glamourous lady lounging alongside the pool with margarita in hand to weather the weather.  It conjures up a wild-eyed mad-hatter creative, scurrying from instruments to computer to manuscript paper to WORD documents to notebooks to research to pacing to exercise machines to eating tons of watermelon to striving to keep cool to…ad infinitum.

Oh – so – slow – ly.

Backside of potholders

Quilted design on backside of potholders

Resulting in?

Potholders.

See here the fruit of my labors.

A set of potholders made from fabric purchased some 21 years ago.

Say, what? Continue reading

Anna’s Hawk

As hubby and I drove the last few yards towards our driveway coming home from an outing the other day, the soundless swoosh of a hawk made its dramatic landing by the side of the road. Just as suddenly, it took flight to who-knows-where.red-tailed-hawk-in-flight

In those few moments, the raw heft of this bird of prey left a palpable presence. Bringing to mind my friend Anna’s novel, The Hawk. 

I’ve been reading it on Smashwords, where she has self-published many of her other novels. I respect the fact that as a creative (he)artist, she does the work necessary to get her work out there for others to enjoy.

She believes her novels are examples of faith in action.  As she says: “And this is where faith comes into the process; it’s trusting your instincts as a creative force to just let the words, or whatever artistic tools you choose, go where they will.”

Thank you Anna for that reminder. Continue reading

3 Quotes, 3 Days – the third

“Music is a place” Philip Glass

NASA The Carina Nebula

The Carina Nebula (photo credit: NASA Hubble Heritage Team)

I’ve been nominated by Geralyn of Where My Feet Are to take part in the 3 days, 3 quotes challenge. This is my first ever nomination for anything ‘blog’ related, so I’m tickled pink to participate. Thank you Geralyn!

I thought it appropriate to end the official ’3 days, 3 quotes’ challenge with this gem from a favorite 20th/21st century composer. Short and to the point, consider it my way of saying: If you visit my site and find I’ve been absent for awhile, you’ll know where I’ve gone!

The rules of the challenge are:

1) Thank the person who nominated you.
2) Post a quote each day for 3 days.
3) Each day nominate 3 new bloggers to take part.

My nominees are:

granmalin

Liz Fountain

Natalie

(Hope you can participate but no worries if you can’t)

It’s All About The Music

My Swimming with Swans project.

Imagine a single sunflower blossom, filling the mind-canvas in O’Keefe fashion.

Sunflower-Eye-copy

The center, filled with potential protein tidbits to be harvested after the bloom has died, is the current focus of my Swimming with Swans project.  It is the source from which all else emanates.

It’s All About The Music.

Prose, dance/animation, fiber art and documentary infuse individual project-petals emerging from that sunflower center.

SanFran Sunflower

My Swimming with Swans project-petals emerging from its music-center

It’s All About The Music.

Recently, I awoke with that O’Keefe-esque visual imprint in my mind’s eye.  Often, the Lord speaks to me through such visuals.

It’s All About The Music.

How that basic fact escaped me during the early days of organizing Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three-year journey between homes can be understood in the reading of its working title. In reigning in the scope of my Swimming with Swans project, first steps were found in the Kevin Powers article I read and wrote about sometime last year.  Still, it only addressed the written aspect of my project.

It’s All About The Music.

From the very start of our Between Homes journey and on through to the bittersweet end, music was my calling card.  Wherever the work sent us, whatever job opportunity hubby pursued – performing opened doors, initiated relationships and provided supplementary income. The Music also served as a precious tether connection with my true self amidst the current Reality we were navigating.

Early on, a colleague jokingly spoke of our Between Homes lifestyle as my personal sabbatical.  While I was certainly immersed in composing, playing, performing and practicing, the circumstance of our journey was not something I’d label as a sabbatical.*

But truly, output gleaned from that Between Homes time resulted in a large body of work.  A large body of quality work, some of which has been presented in bits and pieces on this blog in the form of ‘individual prose-project-petals’ as re-edited vignettes, reflections of re-entry into the mainstream, photos of fiber art created as a result of that experience, and the desire to Give Voice to the experiences of others in similar situations across the country.

All to the exclusion of its core element: The Music.

It’s All About The Music.

To be fair,** the sharing of musical projects on a blog is not easily achieved.  Posting mp3 audio snippets or pdf score excerpts of works in progress is problematic on many fronts.  Copyright protection just doesn’t seem to count for much of anything in this digital age.  Aside from that, there is this old timey view of discussing current projects and ideas that I hold as truth.  Any creative (he)artist knows what I’m talking about: the dreaded speak it, talk it, discuss it, and it will disappear! In other words, don’t share all the details of a current project or idea during the creating of it or the energy will just vaporize; just do it!

And that’s exactly what I have been doing since the beginning of the New Year…

It’s All About The Music.

Swans on a Misty Lake, by Alex Saberi

Swans on a Misty Lake, by Alex Saberi

With the music in its proper place, Swimming with Swans is fleshing out naturally.  It is beginning to glide effortlessly across the lake of completion with strokes of fluid motion, like the swans themselves.

 

 

*Definitely something worth writing about more deeply in another post/vignette.

**and in the spirit of full disclosure: the last few months of our three year journey, I walked away from the deepest part of my self-the music- which took longer to heal after our reentry. That time to the beginning of this year represents a period of restoration and reconciliation that is relevant but not appropriate to recount in this post.  Possibly open to dialogue further in another one, though.

Inspiration during a simple Convalescence

Okay.  So I’m laid up a bit from a pesky back muscle spasm. In my mature wisdom, I know it is nothing as incapacitating as what many of my favorite Wounded Warriors have had to endure in a life less than half the length of my own.  But, when one is on a roll with a project that has been working its way to the top of the slush pile of my creative mind, the intrusion of this mini-disability is an aggravation.

In keeping with a term I earned back during my horse rescue days, I choose to ‘Cowgirl Up.’

Yep, being (he)artistic and horsey walk hand in hand in this lady’s life.

I confess to times of grumpiness, but mostly I’ve been reading lots, listening lots and vegging lots.  Never one to run from the creative crock pot of silence, the waiting is invigorating, but the physical stillness is my undoing!

Here then is a sampling of stuff I love, especially when I can’t position myself on my own practice stool and work on my own music.  Enjoy! Continue reading

Snippets of an Inner Childhood Soundscape

Lately I’ve been remembering quiet times as a kid, with a sharp ear for what actually occupied my time. I’m realizing that my prayers, thoughts and stories were all relayed via inner music.  I sang declarations of love to my God, hummed certain discordant intervals when I was scared, and then snappy tunes when happy.

1959 olive green vw bug

1959 olive green vw bug, just like our own family car (we kept it till ~1977. After that, it spent its last days transporting hazardous materials within a local landfill!)

During family trips in the car, I arranged the sounds and rhythms filling my head into satisfying story soundtracks. Sharing the back seat of a VW bug with my baby bro was not the most exciting of adventures.  No, I take that back, we managed to stage plays between fights for space.

He was most talented at wrinkling up his face to accompany the different voices we made up for various characters.  In fact, he’d do my favorite character, Blob, upon personal request.  Yeah, I guess baby brothers came in handy that way.

I had a rich inner life.

my homemade cannoli

My homemade cannoli

And an enriching kid-life. A life filled with colors, aunts, uncles, cannoli, swimming, exploring and dissecting the stinky frogs packed in purchased science kits.

Stars, bonfires and leaves.

Museums, ice skating, tobogganing, and walks with cousins. Day camp, girl scouts.

Ma’s art lessons she gave to all the cousins, the smell of linseed oil mingled with freshly ironed cotton shirts.  Growing gardens – Ma’s flowers, Dad’s tomatoes, and always a peach tree.

Baby bunnies hidden in our front yard, forts built with scraps of plywood, and music.

Always music.

Ma’s opera and dorky Barn Dance albums, the old 78’s and wonderful new LP’s of musical theatre.

Dad’s jazz. Practicing alongside Coltrane, Charlie, cool blues. Crazy kid-dancing to his sax, clarinet, guitar, and cowbell.

Grandpa’s banjo and zampogna*.  You Are My Sunshine sing-alongs.

Laying on my bed at night or looking up at the clouds on a warm spring day, in my quiet times, I didn’t read.  I didn’t color.  Well, yes, I did those.  But mostly, I ‘did my music.’

Even then, ever with me, from the inside out.

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.
~ Psalm 108:1

*more on this instrument in another post…suffice it to say, my love of goats has a family history as well!

My NaNoWriMo Signature Quotes

One of the fun things about doing NaNoWriMo (besides being a month devoted to writing and a great excuse to down gallons of coffee) is all the geeky stuff that’s available for use during the event.  There are word count widgets (yep, got that!), banners and badge buttons (done those, too) to install on one’s website/blog.  On-site, there’s even push-button access to upload images for use as one’s novel cover (pretty cool, but haven’t done that yet; maybe this year) … just to name a few techie toys.

Then there’s the personalization of one’s NaNo presence.  Along with the usual profile set up, there are numerous ways one can do this.  Over these three years of participating in this creative endeavor, I’ve pretty much kept my moniker (desertmountain) and gravatar (a photo of me and Leggy Lady on the compound, sized-down real teeny tiny) the same.  Mostly just to maintain a sense of continuity within and between each year’s NaNoWriMo.

However, each year’s signature quote has been different.

Interestingly, they reveal something about that year’s novel/project while not specifically chosen as such…a sort of foreshadowing of whatever wanted to be written/worked on during that year’s NaNo.

For NaNo 2012 I pulled a favorite quote from a snippet of Carl Sandburg’s poem, Lesson. peaches in tree 

“Come clean with a child heart.  Laugh as peaches in the summer wind.  Let rain on a house roof be a song.  Let the writing on your face be a smell of apple orchards in late June.”  – Carl Sandburg

Little did I realize my novel for that premier year would revolve around the lessons and seasons of life within The Peach Orchard Project or My Life as a Peach.

My second NaNoWriMo,  I found a quote revealing the effectiveness of fiction as a form of literary social commentary from a favorite author.

“A book, too, can be a star, ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,’ a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” – Madeleine L’Engle

I plunged deep into the realm of my characters.  They cried out for justice in an unjust world while I grieved the passing of the ugliest and hardest of my street people characters who died a hero, defending The Woman Who Didn’t Belong.

This year’s signature quote jumped out at me while reading, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams.  It gives me hope that the creation of (he)art as truth is an important endeavor; one which compels me to soldier-on in doing.

“To withhold words is power.  But to share our words with others openly and honestly is also power.” – Terry Tempest Williams

Me & Leggy Lady on the compound ~November 2010

Me & Leggy Lady on the compound ~November 2010

Honesty is an undeniable foil, it flashes whether bidden or not.  In order to be true to myself, I have to speak.  I must share my words, my music, my (he)art, my Musical Non-Fiction, regardless of whether or not it is seen, heard or read.

 

My NaNo Rebellion in 5 Bullet Points

NaNoWriMo participant 2014 buttonSo here it is, Day 4 of NaNoWriMo 2014.  I thought I’d send on an update about this year’s writing focus and progress.

I already mentioned that I decided to use November’s NaNo time for a specific project I had in mind to work on and hopefully finish.  If not finish, then at the very least bring it forward and closer to completion.

In NaNoWriMo terminology, anything written in the non-fic genre, editing of previous mss drafts, poetry, scripts, blog entries and a myriad of other categories, is considered being a Rebel.  When one declares such a status, one’s project is called their NaNo Rebellion.

My NaNo Rebellion in 5 Bullet Points: Continue reading