This morning The Consumerist kindly pointed us to a search on Amazon that returns quite a few free MP3s. The Consumerist says No guarantee that they'll be any good, but hey, they're free! I’ll go one further here and reduce the free MP3 list to songs I guarantee are good.

If you’re not satisfied by this musical selection, I’ll give you a full refund.

 

Well I guess you must have had a change of heart
You don't treat me like you used to at the start

Those are lyrics from the first song on the album I just bought, Up Front & Down Low by Teddy Thompson. This is the first album I’ve bought through traditional channels for about ten years. That’s when I pretty much stopped buying music. I've bought a few dozen songs directly from independent musicians, but nothing from the recording industry.

Ten years ago the recording industry wasn’t yet extorting money from music fans, but it was already on the wrong side of things. Specifically, it was still pushing the physical distribution model for music (e.g. CDs) even though digital music was clearly the way forward. So I stopped buying CDs and started waiting for the opportunity to buy digital files instead. And amazingly enough, that opportunity took ten full years to arrive.

“What about iTunes?” you ask. Well, until very recently, you couldn’t buy digital files via iTunes. Because of what is known as "digital rights management" or DRM, iTunes really only sells a temporary license to listen to music under very specific circumstances. I’ve always found that unacceptable.

Before digital music arrived, I could take a CD I bought and give it to my friend to listen to. I can likewise take a car I bought and give it to my friend to drive, or — to use a metaphor you’ve likely heard before a movie — take a candy bar I bought and let my friend taste it. I can generally use my purchases wherever I want and however I want, because they’re mine. In this light, music files with DRM are not mine at all. How I use them is heavily regulated by whoever sold them. So I’ve never “bought” them.

Before I stopped buying music I bought probably an average of two CDs a month. So over ten years, that’s about 240 albums I haven’t bought. That may not be enough for the music industry to miss me, but it’s enough that I’ve missed the music industry. So I’m glad we’re having this reunion.

What reunion? The Amazon MP3 Store reunion. Now that I can finally buy music files and own them, I’m buying music again. I’m sure the music industry looks at this as regaining me as a consumer, but I look at it as regaining them as a vendor. I’ve been sitting around online waiting for them to sell me music for ten years and they just finally showed up with something to sell. So welcome back, music.

 

In the interest of starting my ever-hypothetical band, I’ve been following the musician ads on Craigslist since I arrived in Denver. And though I’ve only responded to one ad so far, and my band remains entirely hypothetical, I have noticed something interesting. At least once a day, two ads will appear one after the other, apparently seeking each other. I started taking screen shots a few days ago.

Bassist:

Bassist available/sought

Drummer:

Drummer available and sought

Drum and Bass:

Drum and Bass available and sought

Lead guitarist:

Guitarist available and sought

Vocalist:

Vocalist available and sought

When I see these, I’m really tempted to respond to both ads, just to point them to one another. But maybe they find each other without my help. In any case, I now have a new strategy for forming a band. First, I will compose a compelling Craigslist ad titled "Singer-songwriter seeks cellist and drummer." Then, just before posting the ad, I will instead respond to the inevitable just-posted ad titled "Cellist and drummer seek singer-songwriter."

 

Playing Here is a website I’ve been working on in my spare time for a few months now. It’s still a little rough around the edges but I discovered earlier today that Yahoo is returning the site in search results (despite no links on the web yet), so I guess the cat’s out of the bag. The focus of the site is local music listings, and the core functionality for that is available in four delicious flavors: HTML, email, JavaScript include, and feeds. Here’s an example of a JavaScript include:

I have a long list of planned improvements, but I’d love to get some feedback on the site so far.

 

My friend JJ is in a band called Theodore, which I wrote about back when they visited Iowa. They have a show in St. Louis next Friday at 7pm (MySpace doesn’t tell you the time for some reason), and I was thinking I might go to it now that I am living relatively near St. Louis. But this morning JJ called and asked if I wanted to play at this show, and of course I said yes. So now I have a show in St. Louis next Friday at 7pm. It’s at Cummel’s Cafe, 1627 Washington St. in St. Louis, MO, if you want to come hear me. There’s a $5 door fee, but Theodore alone is well worth that, and I’m sure I add at least $1 in value, so you’re really getting quite a deal.

This will be my first show in a city as large as St. Louis, and also my first show with a door fee, so both should be interesting new experiences. Between working too much, I have been redesigning the music portion of this site to make it less a jumble of MP3s and more an organized jumble of MP3s. Hopefully I’ll have that finished soon, and then I’ll record a few songs I’ve been postponing until I’m done with the site revamp. Until then, you can probably hear most of my new songs at the show on Friday.

 

Yesterday I was listening to Dave Zobl’s “Thanksgiving Day” and thinking it would be nice to share it on the holiday. But then I thought it was probably not licensed for that kind of distribution (I couldn’t find anything to say for sure). Then I thought “well, all those kids over at YouTube seem to get away with that by putting song in video, so it would be more pain to extract it than it would be worth.

So I made a video of the song with images from Flickr licensed under Creative Commons attribution. But when I went to upload it to YouTube, it never finished. While I was waiting for it to finish, I decided I don't really want to start uploading videos to YouTube anyway. I have plenty of space on my own hosting accounts, so why give someone else control over my content? Sure the social aspect of YouTube is appealing, but I wasn’t really sure how to go about that, and it didn’t upload anyway.

So I was finally able to upload it here this morning, and here’s the video I made. I hope you enjoy it and get some more Dave Zobl music as a result:

This video requires Flash Player, which you can download free.

Note: Oops. Turns out his name is Zobl, not Zobi as I included in the video and this description. I’ve corrected the description, but I’m not going to re-render and re-convert the video right today. I found his website, and he has two songs for free download, so I’m assuming he’d be okay with this kind of re-use of his music.

 

Buy Me an Ounce (MP3, lyrics) is my third song (one, two) with lyrics from a poem by e. e. cummings. I believe the poem is something about gender inequality, but I’m not as clear on the meaning as I have been with the previous two. In other music news, a couple weeks ago I uploaded a song to MetaFilter music, a cover of one of my favorite songs, XO by Elliott Smith, which was requested by someone I only know as "cortex" on MetaFilter. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing Theodore play twice. I went to hear them play Thursday night because my friend JJ is in the band, but I went to hear them again Friday night because I really like their music. Unfortunately their recordings are only available on MySpace, an awful website, and those recordings are all rather old and don’t sound much like the current band. But if you get a chance to hear Theodore (from St. Louis), I recommend you take it. If I end up moving to Carbondale, I hope I might be able to perform with them. Meanwhile, I’m writing songs. I have two more on my to-record list.

 

I’ve recorded and posted an MP3 of 8th Grade Graduation as well as lyrics. As I said last week, it’s inspired by Barak Obama’s courageous stance against 8th grade graduations. I played it last Wednesday, and I think it went quite well. Afterward, a man at the bar said he liked it, but hadn’t heard it before. So I guess he thought it was a cover of some radio musician he might have heard. Maybe that’s just because it sounds more like a pop songs than my other music, but I prefer to think it’s because of my excellent songwriting abilities.

 

If last week’s album of the week was Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco, this week’s is Her Majesty by the Decemberists. Here are my new songs:

That last one was written this week and I haven’t even recorded it yet. I think it sounds sort of like the Decemberists. It’s inspired by Senator Barack Obama’s appearance on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me in August of 2005, during which he discussed his controversial position that 8th grade graduation should not exist. I attempted to explore the benefits of 8th grade graduation in song form, with a chorus of “Your 8th grade graduation is a day that you’ll remember for the rest of the night.”

As a reminder, I’m playing 9pm-12am at the Continental Lounge in Des Moines on Wednesday, August 16th, tomorrow.

 

New songs you would hear tonight if you were there:

I’m going to try to record live tonight, to quickly fill the numerous (one, and counting!) requests for CDs.

 

I’ll be playing at the Continental Lounge in Des Moines again this Wednesday, and then next Wednesday, and I suspect the Wednesday after that, but I didn’t want to push my luck. The owner of the Continental Lounge seems to like my music, so I expect to play there regularly, until I move. Which brings me to the other news:

Jessica has a job that starts in a few weeks teaching at Southern Illinois University. It’s not all finalized yet, but it seems likely she’ll be leaving for Carbondale in a couple weeks. “But Scott,” you say, “SIU is in Carbondale, and your job is in Des Moines. How is that working?” It’s not really. Not yet, anyway. For now, I’m staying here in Des Moines while Jessica starts work in Carbondale. Interesting honeymoon, I know, but I’m confident it will work out.

There’s a small chance Jessica will still find a good ESL teaching job in Des Moines, in which case I won’t move to Carbondale at all. There’s a slightly more likely scenario that I’ll find a job in Carbondale in the next few months and move there then. But neither job market seems very good for our respective vocations right now, so the most likely scenario seems to be that I’ll stay here until the end of the year, then join Jessica in Carbondale and be unemployed do freelance work.

So the next few months will double as both a stalling tactic in making a major transition and a chance to save up some money with both of us working full-time jobs at the same time before I no longer have steady income. It will also give me a chance to hone my musical skills if I am left with no choice but to become a world-famous musician for a living.

It’s all rather up in the air right now, but worst case scenario: Jessica works full-time, I try to make more than I spend online, and we adopt a lower-cost lifestyle than we’ve been living lately. I trust we can get by without the money fires.

Photo from slight clutter

 

I'll be playing again at the Continental Lounge in Des Moines this Wednesday night from 9pm to 12am. In addition to most of the songs I played previously, new additions will include:

This my attempt to be upbeat and start pontificating on relationships now that I’m married. Jessica assures me she likes the song.

 

Steve Rogne is a friend of mine from university days. We were apartment mates for about a year and a half. He recently became the Director of Zen Shiatsu Chicago. I’ve done a bit of revamping of their website for him, including giving Steve his own URL (because everyone should have a URL). I hope to get a blog set up for them soon (because everyone should have a blog). Speaking of blogs and new jobs, Dan has both (as everyone should).

Back to me. Last week I met with the bassist — let’s call him "Chris" (because that’s his name) — and we "jammed." Whenever anyone talks about "jamming," I think of it as some sort of improvisational music performance that I don’t know how to do. But really it’s just short hand for "playing music." At least that’s what we did. It went okay for the first time. It looks tentatively like the makings of a band (because everyone should have a band).

Speaking of bands, a week from now Jessica and I are having a wedding (because everyone should have a wedding). As far as the state of Iowa is concerned, we were actually married back in January, but the ceremony will be next weekend, and as far as our grandmothers are concerned, no ceremony means to marriage. We’ve attempted to plan it such that it will be more fun than stressful, so hopefully it will turn out that way.

If you’re interested in showcasing your home for a chance to win … looks like about $25,000 in prizes … Benjamin Moore’s current promotion began at 12am yesterday morning. I made the entry form. I also recently worked on the website for ICM, so if you need some work done on your ethanol refinery (because everyone should have an ethanol refinery), I recommend checking that out.

If you don’t yet have a URL, a blog, a new job, a band, a wedding, or an ethanol refinery, please let me know if I can be of any assistance. Because really, everyone should.

 

I guess I should have felt like a true fan, that my interest in them was “pure” and that he and I shared some sort of special musical connection. But mostly I wished the Apples in Stereo had more teenage girl fans so they could have played a better venue with decent sound.

Brad Sucks

 

Last night went reasonably well. I was mostly wrong about people paying attention. Other than people who knew me, only a few were actually listening. After I plugged in my guitar and the mic, I told someone who worked there that I was ready to start and she said “don’t you want to do a sound check?” and I said “well, I can hear myself play, and it’s just a guitar” and she said “but everyone does a sound check.” So it was obvious from the get-go that I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure what else a sound check would involve, so I just started playing, and it seemed to work out okay.

I didn’t play exactly what I expected to. Earlier last night I remembered that I had intended to include Norah Jone’s “Don’t Know Why” in the list, so I sang that instead of Brad Sucks’ “You’re not Going Anywhere,” which stretches my vocal range when sung in two octaves, and is less interesting when sung in just one. Then I noticed I had “Carry Me Home” in my first set twice. I probably should have noticed that when practicing, but I blame you, the readers of my weblog, for not noticing that when I posted it.

Then at the end of the second set, as I was walking to sit down by Jessica, someone said “Scott?” And I said “yes” while thinking “how does this guy know my name?” Turns out he was a bass player I’ve been communicating with via email about possibly playing together. He seemed to like what he heard, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I had just played, so when I went back for the third set, I went straight to the songs that I thought were more representative of the type of music I’d like to play with a full band.

But then I got all confused about which songs I’d played and which I hadn’t. Luckily, I had too many songs in my set list anyway, so it all worked out. I ended on “With God on Our Side,” which has a final verse about leaving, so that worked out. I don’t suppose anyone really had any idea what words I was singing in the final verse (it didn’t arouse the spontaneous renunciation of war one might hope it would), but it seemed a good way to end the night.

I got paid what I was promised on the spot (which doesn’t always happen in my previous experience), and they even put out a tip jar for me, which was filled with five or six dollars from people who know me. The manager who paid me, Terra, told me that she liked my songs, but it’s more “Tuesday night” music. Then she said “we were saying ‘someone needs to get that guy a Red Bull’.” So I gather it was a bit too slow and depressing, but that’s sort of what I do, so maybe I just shouldn’t play on Friday nights.

She said the guy who arranges musicians was out of town for the week, but when he comes back, she’ll tell him I was good and should go into “the rotation.” I’m not sure how often that would be, but it sounds good. I might get together with the bass player next week and “see if we mesh,” as he put it. I’m not sure how to measure meshiness, but I guess I’ll find out.

Jessica’s friend Libby also picked up a business card from the woman who handles musicians at the local farmers’ market every Saturday morning, so I’m going to look into that. I would have gone this morning, but I’m surprisingly tired this morning. I guess singing was more work than it seemed at the time. I believe the farmers’ market is all tips, so it would require “crowd pleasers” to make any money. I’ve never been especially interested in pleasing crowds (I prefer to make them cry), but it would be good experience. As I wrote several years ago, and sang last night to the eager applause of an apparently drunk man, I heard stories are better than money.

 

The following is what I plan to play tomorrow night. I don’t record covers unless they are very dissimilar to the original (e.g. One More Time), but this should give you an idea of what kind of covers I play. It will also help me practice.

(LyricWiki.org seems to be down right now, so I’ll add the links to the lyrics for the covers later.)

Update: Looks like LyricWiki.org is dead. That’s too bad. I’ve added links to SongMeanings.net or something else instead, and crossed out the songs I didn’t actually play.

Hour 1, in which I channel e.e. cummings:

Hour 2, in which I pretend I’m in Radiohead:

Hour 3, in which I sing "goodnight" repeatedly:

 

A couple weeks ago I responded to an ad on Craigslist seeking local musicians for Happy hour or late night set Monday - Thursday … acoustic guitarists or pianists to play low key jazz, blues, alternative pop for a three hour set. I am both an acoustic guitarist and a pianist. I responded thinking I could easily play low key blues piano for three hours some weeknight. I sent some MP3s of me playing guitar, because I don’t have any of me playing piano. And I was offered a spot on July 7, a Friday night, 9pm-12am.

I accepted the offer, but there are a few problem with it. First, they don’t have a piano at the Continental Lounge. I don’t know why they were advertising for pianists when they don’t have a piano. Did they think someone was going to bring in a piano? I have a keyboard, but it doesn’t sound enough like a piano that I can comfortably play low-key blues on it. So I think I’ll play guitar.

But the second problem is that I’m not sure that I have three hours worth of low-key guitar music. A lot of the songs I know involve yelling. I haven’t even been to the Continental Lounge before, so I have no idea what the atmosphere is, or if yelling might be inappropriate. The only other solo musician I know, JJ, suggested I play instrumental guitar music, which I’ll have to do to keep my voice during a three hour run, but I don’t normally play instrumental guitar music, so we’ll see how that goes.

The third problem is that it's not Monday - Thursday, as the ad said. It's Friday night. People ignore musicians Monday - Thurday, but they pay attention Friday night. I’m not sure I want people paying attention to my first show as a solo musician.

Basically, I have no idea what to expect right now, but I’m going to do it anyway. Even if it turns out to be a bad experience, it should be good experience. So if you’d like to hear what my music sounds like live, you’ll be able to do so — in one form or another — at the Continental Lounge (428 E. Locust St., Des Moines, IA) on July 7 9pm-12am.

 

next to of course god america i (MP3, lyrics) is the second song I’ve recorded with lyrics from e. e. cummings. (The first was anyone lived in a pretty how town, which I need to re-record.) So far I've written four songs. I expect I'll eventually have a whole album's worth. I like e. e. cummings’ poems, and I find the songs are easy to write. It’s also more fun to listen to songs with lyrics someone else wrote. I don’t generally like listening to my own music, but I don’t mind with these e. e. cummings songs.

 

Two songs in one day! This one, Wishful Thinkers (MP3, lyrics) is brand new. Freshly written today, I’ve only played it a few times. And if the freshness alone isn’t enough to interest you, it has not one, but two literary references. The first is to Amy Tan’s Saving Fish from Drowning, which I haven’t read, but Jessica has and she told me the story from which the title comes. The idea is that there are fishermen who are trying to save fish from drowning, but they’re always just a little too late, as the fish die shortly after being saved. I thought it was a funny story and a good analogy for solving problems that don’t exist and confusing hurting with helping, two forms of wishful thinking.

The second is the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, which I don’t think I’ve ever read either, but it’s a common enough story that I have a rough idea of how it goes. It’s a desperate failed attempt to overcome problems by cleverness alone, another form of wishful thinking. This one killed a person instead of fish.

I don’t think wishful thinking is a bad thing. I like to imagine myself a wishful thinker (hence the lyrics of "We’re wishful thinkers," not "You’re wishful thinkers"). But I’m increasingly noticing wishful thinking going too far in situations where "it’s not gonna’ help this time." For example: A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure. Wishful thinking can be dangerous.

 

Three Words (MP3, lyrics) is a new song, about language falling short. An interesting part of working in a buzzword-heavy industry is watching as words become meaningless, by "too many people, saying too much, saying nothing at all." The term "AJAX," for example, meant something more than "DHTML" for maybe a week before it was thrown carelessly into so many sentences that it lost all meaning in common use. I think the same thing happens with all words (e.g.), though not often as quickly.

 

It's been a long time since I've posted a new recording. In the meantime, I've acquired a new mic and audio input box. I've also been teaching myself how to do multi-track recording: playing with a click track, re-recording specific sections without redoing the whole song, adding filters, fades, etc.

I have a lot left to learn, but I think I'm comfortable enough now that I can sit down for a couple hours and end up with something that doesn't sound altogether awful and could be easily improved in the future. For example, a song I did today called "Better Bye," in MP3 and lyrics. I wrote it in the car after listening to a song by Jackie Greene. I think the original recording was on my cell phone. This is version one hundred and something. I have a fantasy that someday I'll record and post songs the day I write them. I'm not there quite yet.

 

Happy Daylight Savings! (M3U, via CD Baby) Okay, maybe not happy, but certainly the best Daylight Savings song I've ever heard.

 

I think music training generally makes musicians worse, not better. I know a few good trained musicians, but I think their talent is in spite of their training. Once you've taken the time to learn about scales and chord progressions and so on, you can't help but think about those things when you're making music. And then you're not thinking about whatever you were thinking about before the training, back when music was fun.

That's my theory anyway: music training takes the passion out of music. A friend of mine has his own music training theory, which I suspect is more accurate than mine. He's not entirely opposed to training, but he does minimal training. If someone wants to know how to play piano, he tells them to play just the black keys or just the white keys.

By making the instrument simpler, it becomes difficult to create bad music, without really causing the musician to do any thinking that might get in the way of the soul of the music. But I'm not sure this strategy scales. Eventually we'll all get bored with playing only the black keys, and I don't know what comes next. At some point, most of us need to start thinking about the music to avoid getting bored. So I fall back on my strategy, which is to avoid training and start thinking about the music less consciously.

I know a lot of guitar chords I couldn't name. I learned them by putting my fingers into new shapes and listening to the sounds. When I liked them, I played them again and again until I knew the chords. If I don't like them, I never play them again. This is still music education, as I'm still learning, but it's not music training. I have no course to follow, and no next step I feel compelled to do even as it sucks away the fun of music.

So I don't like music training, and this is the first thing that came to mind when I read Kathy Sierra's recent post on learning and passion: Learning music changes music...The more you help your users learn and improve, the greater the chance that they'll become passionate. Note that this is the opposite of the experience I've just described with music.

I was getting ready to leave a comment to that effect when I got to Kathy's own comment explaining my position better than I could:

...for a lot of us, our products aren't the ultimate *destination*, but a means to doing something else that we ARE (or can be) passionate about. 37signals creates products that let users spend more time in flow -- using 37signals software to do something ELSE, which could be the thing they ARE passionate about. Some of the products people are most passionate about are simply the tools that enable and then get the hell out of the way so that the REAL thing they're passionate about can happen. But through "misattribution of arousal" (as the psychologists call it), some of that passion spills onto the product/tool that allowed you to experience that optimal experience or "flow state".

I'm passionate about skiing, not my skis...

Exactly. By analogy then, I guess I'm not passionate about music, but something else music allows. What is that something though? I'm not sure. It's some subset of communication that is intentionally ambiguous. It's sort of like poetry, I think, where poets choose each word carefully with an eye toward how it will be read. Only music isn't as demanding, because the melody can mask the difference between words with flexible meaning and words with no meaning.

So I guess that's my second theory of music: musicians are poets with a crutch. It's a crutch that allows new forms of expression though. I like Nirvana and Radiohead, but their lyrics don't often mean anything — to me anyway, your mileage may vary. Scratch that — your mileage will vary. And that variance is what I like. Music, more than poetry I think, creates meaning. Anyone can string together random words, and if they are set to a good melody, people will assume a meaning where none was before.

That assumed, created meaning will be a little different for everyone listening to a song. And different people will talk about their own meanings with each other, and agree on shared meanings. Good music eventually makes new ideas. There, that's my third theory. So I guess I'm passionate about new ideas, not music. Good to learn.

 

So I took my newly acquired recording skills and applied them to a song I wrote way back in high school, Emily (lyrics, MP3). I'm pretty sure I recorded it previously, but I can't find any recording of it, so I made a new one, and added a new verse on the end that totally changes what the song is about. (Before Emily was the antagonist — now she's the protagonist.)

I'm sure there's more I could improve, but after spending over two hours on one song, I'm done with it for now. I could have played two dozen songs in that time and instead I just played the same one over and over and over. This recording stuff is hard work. I guess that's why pros pay other people to do it.

I don't think I significantly slowed the song down, but it ended up over seven minutes, so hopefully it's not awful, or it will be a whole lot of awful. I probably went overboard on the instrumentation: rhythm guitar, lead guitar, drum, harmonica, and voice. It's hard to listen to it after playing it so much, but I think it turned out okay. In any case, it's good practice, and maybe the next song won't take so long.

 

Hair's Breadth ( MP3, lyrics) is my first recording on my new used guitar.

It's a twelve string (with only six strings currently) Framus, which is a brand I'd never heard of before seeing this guitar. In the picture, you'll note some holes in the front of the body. That's where the pickup knobs are going to go once I have my soon-to-be professional luthier friend JJ put them in and do some other repairs to it.

I never had a pickup put into my six string Ibanez guitar because I dropped it in Taiwan, ironically while exiting the airport after a long trip spent worrying about my guitar getting damaged on the plane. So now it has an unrepairable dent in the back, and even though it plays fine it seems a waste of money to give it a pickup.

After I get a pickup in the new Framus, I'll just need a mic and I'll be ready to play out somewhere. And then I just need to find somewhere out to play. I recently discovered the Ritual Café in Des Moines, which is unfortunately lacking a website of any sort. It has vegetarian food, wifi, and according to Google, is host a lot of musicians I like. So that's my long-term music goal: get the guitar fixed up, get a mic, and get a gig at the Ritual Café.

Meanwhile, I have a bunch of songs to record. I just figured out how to use Tracktion to do real-time editing or whatever you call it where you twiddle the knobs and sliders while playing through the recording to have different volume or other settings in different parts of the song. So that should improve the quality of recordings a bit. Now I just need to learn how to keep time with a click track. I think I'll Ask MetaFilter about that.

 

I'm releasing my music under a Creative Commons license, which means you don't need to ask me to copy it, and you can even republish it, provided you're not selling it and you mention where it came from so others can copy it too. Last night I watched a short video by Nate Harrison on the "amen break". It's not really worth watching, but it's worth listening to. The amen break is a drum loop you've probably heard. For some reason, it's an incredibly popular beat to loop behind a wide variety of music. But it's form a song that wasn't especially popular.

I've been meaning to add license information to my music for a while, and haven't mostly because I can't license Los Vivos' or JJ's music, and the Creative Commons embedded license system is designed to do an entire work all in one shot. So I could either add it to the page, or add it to each individual track, which would take a while. But whatever. Anyone who's interested can figure it out form the CC logo and link above my music.

My previous interaction with Creative Commons has been all donation-purchases. I made a donation in exchange for an autographed copy of the Future of Ideas. And then I made another donation in exchange for a shirt that says "your failed business model is not my problem." A long time ago I bought a shirt that says "I'm the little sister," because I like to spread gender confusion in my free time, and many people would ask me what it means. It was a good conversation piece. I expected the "your failed business model is not my problem" shirt to serve the same purpose, but no one ever asks me what it means. It's a nice shirt anyway.

For my book and shirt, I think I've given about $40 to Creative Commons. So yesterday I received an envelope from Creative Commons. Inside were three pieces of paper asking me for more money. The envelope was stamped with 37 cent postage. So they spent about 40 cents to send a letter to me rather than emailing me for free. This would be silly enough for a standard non-profit, but Creative Commons exists entirely on the internet, is of interest mostly to tech-savvy people, and can probably reach as many, if not more, potential donors via email than mail.

But don't let the pointless tree killing keep you from sharing my music on BitTorrent, or whatever you kids are using these days.

 

I think Most of Mine (MP3, lyrics) is one of my best songs, if I do say so myself. Which makes it all the more embarrassing to admit that it was largely inspired by an episode of Will and Grace. It's the one where Harry Connick Jr's character and Grace are getting back together after he has cheated on her. That said, I hope the song has a bit more depth to it than a typical episode of Will and Grace.

 

I posted an ad for musicians on Craig's List this morning. So far I've had one response. I'll let you all know when the new band starts playing out.

 

If you've been having problems with the music server, it's fixed now. The problem only effected larger files (i.e. long songs) due to the way I was loading the entire file before sending it on. Now I'm sending every bit of the requested file as it is read. In addition to actually working for larger files, this will allow you to start listening to songs as they are downloaded, which is good for people on slower connections. If you have any future problems with the music server, please notify me.

 

Last night I learned how to play Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, a song I've only heard by David Gray, but which was apparently written by Marc Almond of Soft Cell. After that, I noticed a Bob Dylan song by a similar name that I'm not sure I've ever heard. So I played along with the chords doing my best Dylan imitation. Then I started writing a new song. Last night it seemed very Dylan-esque, and I was quite pleased with myself. I seem to have lost a bit of the Dylan this morning, but I think it's still a pretty good song.

This time I managed to play along at a steady tempo for a scratch track, so I recorded it in three separate tracks. I think the timing of the three may be slightly off due to a software buffer in my recording setup, and I think there are a few hiccups as I had other software running at the same time. But I think it's pretty good nonetheless. I even figured out how to make my guitar sound like both a banjo and a bass, so I can now imitate a three piece bluegrass band.

I'm sure I could spend all day improving it, but I say it's good enough for now. The song is called Melted All Away (MP3, lyrics), and I think it's sort of written from the perspective of one of the main characters in Dharma Bums, whose philosophical perspectives act as a convenient buffer against reality.

 

I just posted another song to the music server, Twenty Cents (MP3, lyrics). If I'm not careful, this could become a habit. This is another rough track done in one take. I don't think the vocals and guitar balanced quite as well as they did on the last one, and you can hear a police siren in the background on the second verse. But that just gives it an "authentic" sound, right? I spent a while trying to make a real scratch track by keeping a consistant tempo with a click track. But then I gave up and just recorded it, which took about half as long as fiddling with the tempo. And it was more fun. I have five or six more songs that I've never recorded before I have nothing better to do but improve the recording quality. Or write more songs.

 

I just posted Not Gonna Rain (MP3 , lyrics), a song I started singing in the car last week on my way to work after reading something about weather on Shelley's weblog and thinking about how complaining about rain is cliche, but complaining about dryness isn't. Of course, since then, it has rained a plenty. As Shelley said in her most recent weather post, weather is so wonderfully ironic.

I think this is slightly better recording quality than much of my recordings on the music server currently, but it's just a rough cut, done all in one take. It's the kind of thing I'd like to make the time to use as a scratch track to listen to while recording each instrument separately and then mixing them, raising the vocals a bit here and the guitar a bit there. Maybe adding some percussion and a soft accordion in the background. But for now, this is the recording I've done. I'm going to call this a release early, release often model for music, and hope that means I'll eventually get back to a better version of this and other songs.

 

Pandora is a neat tool. It creates a personal radio station for you based on the musical style of an artist of your choosing. You can then customize it further with feedback on individual songs it has chosen. I'd like it to do more to expand my musical interests rather than just continually focusing or shifting them. And I'd also like to see it incorporate non-label music. But as is, it's a great example of where radio is headed.

 

if you've ever considered getting some recording software, i highly recommend you get tracktion while it's free (was $80). i've been testing it for the past week or so and it's the easiest fully-functional recording software i've ever used. it comes in both mac and windows versions. and now it's free.

 

if you'll direct your attention over to the music section, you'll notice everything is free. i'm still taking donations, which will hopefully help pay for the cost of hosting the music. music by people who aren't me has been removed until i can okay the new pricing with them. i'm uploading more music as i type. enjoy.

 

anyone lived in a pretty how town is a poem by e. e. cummings, sent to me by ann a while ago. i set it to music, and now you can listen to it.