Week #31 is an instrumental that started out as the backing track for next week's song (which is titled "(You Are My) Palindrome" -- I'll post the link here when it's available.)
As I started trying to meld the lyrics I'd written to the tune in my head, I realized that they simply didn't match, so I detached this melody from that project. Still, I liked the direction this piece was heading, and, thus, I decided to turn it into an instrumental.
A few days later, after I'd recorded a few drafts, I was walking into a room and didn't realize that the song was playing on my phone. A friend commented that it sounded like I'd written myself "walk on" music, and thus the title was born.
Walking, especially in cities, is a particular love of mine, which inspired the video. Like last week's tune, "Thanatopsis" (see below), the video here is made up images where I've asked A.I. to generate paintings on a theme in the style of different artists. Here, the theme was a "busy street in the rain" and the artists come from an A.I. list of "ten most important painters in history." That list -- very heavy on male artists because western history of endemically misogynist -- is: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet, Pollock, Kahlo, and Matisse. Not necessarily the choices I would have made, but that's what ChatGPT came up with. (Astute viewers will notice an 11th artist -- the video begins with a faux Pissarro, whose street scenes are among my favorites.)
Thanatopsis means "meditation on death" in Greek and it's the title of a poem by William Cullen Bryant that was very popular in its day. I don't love it as a poem, but there are a few lines that have always stuck with me, as Bryant contemplates the fact that everyone who knows you will, themselves, eventually die.
"All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee."
I decided to write about this concept of the inevitability of death in this little ditty. Musically, it owes much to Philip Glass's "Songs from Liquid Days," which has been a touchstone for me for many years.
The video itself is a little A.I. experiment where I asked the computer to produce paintings of clouds in the styles of various famous artists (Van Gogh, Picasso, Agnes Martin, Georgia O'Keeffe, etc.). I particularly concentrated on female artists after reading a short article recently that A.I. has a gender problem: too much of the data fed into it is both by men and about men, so I was curious how well it would do. Some are spot on -- some are baffling
Week #29 of the "53 Songs in 53 Weeks" project is a companion piece to week #18, "Blue Roses" (which you can listen to at https://youtu.be/qB3iqwmEOY0?si=t_fcp.... That song told one side of a breakup from a melancholy point of view. This version tells the story of the same couple from the other partner's point of view -- from the point of view of the person who was blindsided. It has a some Power Pop in its DNA along with a little post-Stray Cats, pre-orchestra Brian Setzer and I don't quite know what else. It was a fun song to write and record and I hope you enjoy it.
Week #28 of the "53 Songs in 53 Weeks Project" is an ambient / classical / minimalist piece about climate change.
Last week's song, "Lahaina Town," [https://youtu.be/EqAL705QAbk?si=K0hEU...] was a combination of nostalgia, sorrow, and a contemplation of mortality, and this is week is no different -- except the sorrow here is at the rapidly increasing loss of an entire continent. I was lucky enough to visit Antarctica over two decades ago -- hence the nostalgia -- and much I what I saw then is changing under the pressures of a rapidly warming earth. The footage in this video is all material I shot in Antarctica on that voyage.
As noted recently in The Guardian:
"Melting ice around Antarctica will cause a rapid slowdown of a major global deep ocean current by 2050 that could alter the world’s climate for centuries and accelerate sea level rise, according to scientists behind new research.
The research suggests if greenhouse gas emissions continue at today’s levels, the current in the deepest parts of the ocean could slow down by 40% in only three decades.
This, the scientists said, could generate a cascade of impacts that could push up sea levels, alter weather patterns and starve marine life of a vital source of nutrients." (read the full article at https://www.theguardian.com/world/202...)
The composition's title is inspired by a song by the great John Cale, "Antarctica Starts Here" -- but other than that titular homage (and the fact that they're both in the key of F) there's no connection between the songs. This piece begins with a solo clarinet, which is soon joined by the cello and bass. Throughout the song, that string duo pays a non-repeating pattern of F Bb Dm C, followed by the repeating pattern of Gm Dm Am Eb.
That first clarinet is soon joined by a second clarinet playing counterpoint. Then, In the second iteration or stanza, the clarinet lines repeat and are joined by an oboe, and then in the third iteration by a flute, each new instrument adding a different melody, while the previous instruments either continue their original patterns or drop out. Ultimately, by the fourth iteration, there a bit of dissonance between the flute and clarinet -- an evocation of the cognitive dissonance we all face as people when it comes to the fact that we are hurtling, pell-mell, toward total planetary change. The fifth and final loop returns to the first clarinet melody, culminating in a crescendo of all the instruments in Eb. The piece purposefully doesn't resolve back to F, which I think leaves the listener with a sense of discomfort.
On August 8, 2023, a catastrophic wildfire engulfed Lahaina, Maui, one of the most historic towns in the Hawaiian Islands, and the first place I ever stayed on Maui over 20 years ago.
When I began writing songs about Maui history about 15 years ago, Lahaina -- former Hawaiian royal capital and center of the whaling industry -- seemed like a natural fit. I crafted the song to be what's known as a forebitter, a type of whaling song sung not to pass the time during work but during the sailors' leisure hour. Our narrator, Jim Jones (named for the character in the Australian folk song, not the cult leader), passes the time in the Antarctic Sea on watch dreaming of the easy life in Lahaina -- a place he's never seen.
My kumu, Keli'i Taua, helped me craft a number of my early Hawaiian-history ballads, including this one. He was especially enamored of the last stanza:
"And when I die at land or sea
Please take my body down
And bury me 'neath the breadfruit trees
Somewhere in Lahaina Town."
This stanza contains the only line I've altered for this version of song, changing "breadfruit trees" to "banyan tree" in reference to the giant tree in the center of Old Lahaina that has become a symbol of the town's resilience in the face of such total devastation. I hope Keli'i would approve.
Every single penny I receive from streaming this song or from people buying copies on iTunes or Amazon Music will go to my ongoing efforts to connect directly to families who've lost everything. Please play this song as many times as you can! Mahalo.
PS: In an eerie coincidence, I named the whale ship in this song "Dora Gray," a name I totally made up. The hurricane which fueled the deadly fires in Lahaina was Hurricane Dora.
PPS: All the images in this video are pictures I've taken in Lahaina over the years. :-(
Can you believe we are halfway through the 53 Weeks project? (Well, halfway through next week's song is technically halfway, but you know what I mean.) This song is inspired by the #1 most searched question on Google -- what's the weather today? I used to commute via subway in New York City in all sorts of weather and I just remember how miserable it could be on rainy days, so that inspired this song and video.
This song was inspired not just by love of the ocean (and ambient soundscapes), but specifically by "English Rose," a song by the Jam. The Jam never achieved the sort of success in America that they had in their native land, but I was a big fan starting in the early 1980s. "English Rose," comes from "All Mod Cons," which came out in 1978 (tempus fugit), and is one of my favorite Jam albums; Paul Weller, the Jam's principal composer, always felt his song was a whole piece, music and lyrics, that couldn't be separated or understood one without the other. I feel very much the same about "The Sea" (tempus fugit).