On The Anniversary

July 6th, 2010 at 7:47 pm (Random Stuff)

Had an extended dream last night about aliens, and then got on my computer this morning and read that today is the 63rd anniversary of the Roswell UFO incident.  My dream involved investigating a crashed UFO in the desert.  Weird.

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Notable Christian Singer-Songwriter

July 6th, 2010 at 6:01 pm (Notable Artists)

Wanted to be sure to include space in this blog to sing the praises of a New Zealand singer-songwriter I’ve been listening to lately.  Brooke Fraser has earned  some fame for a number of songs she wrote and performed with the Australian Christian group Hillsong — notably “Hosanna”, “Desert Song”, “Soon,” — all of which distinctive and haunting.  Her solo work was subsequently a treat of a discovery.  Here, she doesn’t so much write toward the Christian-pop-worship or K-Love formats, but rather as a talented songwriter who is a woman of genuine faith, working to discern her place in the world.  If you’re confused what the difference is, then I encourage you to check out Albertine, her second and most recent album — and best.  It means at times struggling with her faith and how to live it out meaningfully — “My comfort would prefer for me to be numb/And avoid the impending birth/Of who I was born to become” (from “C.S. Lewis Song”) — or the emotional struggle of an encounter with strife in Rwanda and an irrepressible feeling of call-to-service, while being too-easily removed from it (the title track).  Or just hoping and waiting for romantic love (“Love Is Waiting”).  Refreshing to encounter an artist so honest and insightful about faith.  Her skill for writing thoughtful and distinctive lyric gives us what is so satisfying in an artist: The feeling that we’re seeing the world from a singular and special perspective.

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Home Studio Success

July 4th, 2010 at 12:58 am (Home Recording)

A ray of light for home recording producers — I just learned that Alanis Morissette’s 1995 debut Jagged Little Pill, which generated 3 hit singles and sold 15 million copies, was 75% created in producer Glen Ballard’s home studio on 16-bit ADAT’s.  You’ll probably recognize the jaded, emotional lead-single “You Oughta Know” and Morissette’s unmistakable raw vocals and writing.  (I remember listening to that track on a cassette tape release of ’95 radio hits).  I’m a little scared to learn that she was only 19 when she made the album (listen to “You Oughta Know” again with that in mind).  Ballard, talking about making the project in his home studio: “The entire genesis of every track was done there, so everything was created in that environment, just with the two of us.”  Looking forward to reading more when Howard Massey’s Behind the Glass arrives from Amazon next week.

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Rodgers and Hammerstein on Writing Music

July 2nd, 2010 at 11:17 pm (Songwriting)

Playing Carousel in two weeks at the Dairy Center with Centerstage.  Watched the movie last night; slightly crushing on Shirley Jones, not gonna lie.  Special features included a segment with some audio from interviews with Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Hammerstein talks about having spent weeks and weeks writing the lyric to “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” before handing it over to Rodgers, and then in the two hours it took Rodgers’ wife to take the kids to the movies, Rodgers wrote the entire song.  Hammerstein: “It took me several weeks and then I gave it to him, and two hours later he called me and said ‘I got it!’ And I could have thrown a brick through the phone.”  Rodgers, of course, had been thinking about the title, and discussing it with Hammerstein, for “weeks and months” before the 2-hour rush of inspiration.  Rodgers: “I have to do an awful lot of thinking for an awful lot of time before I even dream of doing actual notes.  I think that the moment of creation should be a spontaneous one, I think possibly the results are better if it comes in a rush.  But you can’t get that rush going without doing something about it.  It isn’t just there, you have to think.”

Love that — many people seem to think that writing music or a story or anything creative involves sitting around and waiting for a flash moment of inspiration.  In my experience, sitting around never achieved anything, and loads of time and work must be spent writing the stuff that you end up throwing out (you have to write the bad stuff before you can get out the good stuff) and otherwise thinking and “feeding” the mind and spirit, and then occasionally, if you’re lucky, you will stumble on a rush of inspiration (but not all great songs are written in a rush).  And let’s not forget that Hammerstein spent weeks and weeks writing and re-writing the lyric before it was right — not all of the song was done in a rush.

On a side note, some of the interview clips seemed to imply that Hammerstein often wrote out the entire lyric before giving it to Rodgers to set to music (he said “Soliloquy” was written this way) — which surprises me.  I find that pre-written lyrics can too often lead to stodgy, square melodies (rhythmically uninteresting in particular), and I would have thought the lyricist/composer collaboration would have been more of a back-and-forth.  Pretty sure it works the other direction with Andrew Lloyd Webber and his many lyricists (the song is written first — just listen to the forced lyric for the chorus of the title song in Superstar — not that I’m knocking Tim Rice, he just had an impossible job with that melody).  Would love to learn more about how that lyricist/composer collaboration works with others, but I certainly consider Rodgers and Hammerstein masters.

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An Introduction

July 1st, 2010 at 11:47 pm (Making of City Dreams Series)

Starting a blog might seem strange for a kid who still gets a newspaper delivered everyday and has no television connection.  Strange, too, for someone who gripes ad-nauseum about the self-absored internet culture of blogging and social networking.  No matter.  We’re a decade and 6 months into the new millennium, and maybe it’s time to give in a little.  Might be fun.  Ali Harrold is wondering what the heck happened to me.

This blog came out of discussions about how to promote and grow the presence of my recent CD release City Dreams.  In that spirit, and to ease my entry into blogging, I’m going to use this blog at first to present a series of entries discussing the creation of City Dreams.  I’ll strive for at least one entry in the series a week, but maybe more if I’m up for it.  I plan on including audio-clips of early versions of songs, alternate mixes, extra material and stuff like that.

Hopefully such details will find an interested audience.  City Dreams was a 2.5 year-in-the-making home “project studio” project — “project studio” pretty much meaning I did most all the grunt-work myself with limited gear I personally own and have set up at home.  Experienced, attentive listeners might be able to hear that, but I’m flattered when I get questions like: “So did you go to a studio to do the recording and mixing?”; “So did you hire a bunch of studio musicians for this?”; “Trying to decide if all the string parts were by real musicians — I think they are, right?”  The answer to all these questions is no.  I did all of it myself.  Which is hard, and time consuming, and has some drawbacks, and ultimately just isn’t quite as good as great musicians working in a 3-million-dollar studio.  The advantage, of course, is greater freedom and less expense.  I reckon there’s a story there, and that’s what this series is about.  Bon voyage.

If you haven’t…

Read a general description of City Dreams, go here: http://www.citydreamsthealbum.com/City_Dreams/About_the_Album.html

If you don’t have a copy of City Dreams

Buy a CD copy here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/DanielGraeber

Buy it digitally on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/city-dreams/id368302416

Or stream it for free from MySpace here: www.myspace.com/citydreamsthealbum

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