“Oh, how scary and wonderful it is that words can change our lives simply by being next to each other.” ― Kamand Kojouri

SECRET DIARY

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Lose Yourself

Title references Eminem’s rallying piece. A recent rediscovery – failure is not an option.

Lyrical ideas to put into one of my own pieces:

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek (taken from a Bob Proctor video. I forget who said it – gotta find this)

You better catch me while my price is low (taken from a I’m Not You – Niyi Sobo podcast. A rapper penned this)

I was hoping in the beginning

Living on benefits, the backs of others

Telling myself my work was for the greater good

Hoping things will fall into place

Wanting to press go

***Wanting to reward myself with the things I let go (in the old way)

When I make my plan / vision / destination

Things fall into place

I knew from day one

My life is not the beaten path

Stars in my eyes

Visions of grandeur

Epistrophy

Post-gig at Epistrophy in Soho. Duo with Tim Clement. He’s a wizard. The vibe was sparkling with blue velvet draped around the room. When I channel my WHY it’s easy for me to find how. I let go and go into it. 

Pulses – Getting it under my fingers

Last night I felt inspired to paint. It’s been since the summer since I last brought out my paints. I got a few sheets of framed glass and I’m going to use them to layer colored pointilism paintings. I started with variations in red textures, colors, and shapes. The meaning behind the song Pulses. It all goes together. I’m going to layer the glass sheets and add a backlit light to illuminate them. Maybe also reflect tiny little mirrored glass behind them. I’m inspired to create visual art again.

Now sitting down at the spacious studio with the Steinway and light streaming in through the huge loft windows. Going to practice Pulses again. I booked two Alarke shows in March – March 13 at Pianos and March 24 at Connolly’s. I also am going to record this on video on February 23. It’s time to get this up in action. Fluent under my fingertips where I can sing and play without looking at the music. Starting now. Go!

Update: developed a climbing prechorus for “I cried I love you / into this light / my words burst into / stars in the night” and rolled interludes. Working on getting smoother, more comfortable transitioning between chords.

Next step: continue working on the transitions and getting it under my fingers. Work on vocals with the piano. Then add the TC Helicon vocal harmonies.

Pulses – transposition

Friday morning at the ever-spacious Sage Music studio and this 100-year old glorious Steinway with real ivory keys. The beauty of the keys – I never actually thought until now how they’ve been alive. Growing. On tusks. I mean, I knew, but I am forever seeing things in new perspectives.

I’m going to move Pulses down from the key of E to C or D. I think it will resonate better in my voice and make it easier for others to sing along to the song. I feel eager to find it – but I know that I should take my time and try out both keys instead of making a rushed decision. I just want to get it and move on. However, learning it in both keys will make me a better pianist anyways. I was also considering C#/Db, inspired by Antony and the Johnson’s Bird Gerhl, but it’s trickier to play (so many sharps/flats), which I can do, but it’s harder to link with other musicians and play right away. It’ll take a bit longer for people to get the song under their fingertips. Maybe. For the best musicians, no. But I want to keep options open.

Tried both C and D. Going to stick with C. Video shoot in three weeks. I’m going to practice this piece so I could do it in my sleep. Play it like no one’s business with keys and the TC Helicon vocal fx.

Video idea – start in black and white. The lyrics are about pale colors. Open up to color on “shatter horizons, observe the sight / come to awaken vision so bright.” Then do crazy fx and collages for the chorus.

Pulses – Bird Gerhl Inspo

Feeling inspired by this performance of Bird Gerhl by Antony and the Johnsons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNK6ycMm1YU

Antony changed her name – she’s now Ahnoni. I admire her so much for her courageousness in her representation of her transgender identity and with her openness in her music. I want to be like her, with her amazing music and visual art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anohni. I’m also sometimes feeling bad that I’ve lost time for myself. I’m not the young teenager pop star. I never really wanted to be that, anyways. It’s comforting to know, however, that Ahnoni garnered first critical acclaim at age 34. Makes me feel more confident that time IS on my side and age is a number. IT’s more about mentality.

Ok. Pulses work now. I had written this song in a Gypsy caravan in France and in artist studios in London and Paris. It’s written for guitar and electronics, but I just love the piano and want to play so something with triggering beats, playing piano, and doing vocal harmonies a la James Blake. Yesterday, I cleaned up the chart I had written for it so it makes sense more. I understand theory more when I spell it out on piano, rather than on guitar. It’s easier to count intervals and visualize relationships between chords. Piano’s my first instrument and I love it. Sometimes I regret spending so much time these last few years working with guitar, but time is not lost. I’ve learned so many beautiful jazz harmonies and chord progressions that I can now take with me to the piano.

Today’s studio goal is to work through the piano part more. I scheduled a video shoot with Kwesi Peters (amazing and generous NYC-based videographer) for the end of the month, so this will give me an impetus to focus on this song. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with what to focus on. This will give me a goal to work towards.

Getting the chords in my hands – play them with my eyes closed.

Did it. Pulses on the keys is becoming a part of me. Working on piano. One piece at a time, not getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once. Feeling amazing. I love piano.

Studio Class Podcast

I discovered that an opera singer friend of mine, Meghan Ihnen, has a podcast called “Studio Class.” I love listening to her podcasts. Although it’s geared towards classical singers, it’s applicable to my art as a singer and songwriter. Audition tips work for my preparation.

I am pumped because on Friday, I submitted my FIFTH grant proposal for the month. As I was submitting it, the captcha was this: PAIN. Yes, I have never worked so hard in my life as I have this month. Not only have I gained new insights for my musical future in essentially writing a business plan by creating the proposals, but I also reached a monthly income goal that I set to reach by November 2017. I reached it in January!

I made sacrifices for time – I used to exercise 4-5x/week, but this month, I exercised 4 or 5 times total. I also had less time in the practice studio, which really sucks. I need that time to feel happy and develop my future by improving my music. So. This month is dedicated to elevating my time in the studio and getting baller with tracking finances. I started taking a finance course at the Actor’s Fund called Cash Flow for Artists that helps artists with irregular income build a budget and plan to financial wealth.

Getting to it!

Live Video Shoot Day

Early to rise – 6:30. Ready in the studio to warm up at 8:30 before heading to the recording studio to shoot.

12 minutes of yoga to start the day at home.

Piano and vocal warm ups to get in the mood. Warming up on piano on Lovage – new song in the works and Moonlight Sonata. I’m teaching my young pianist students Moonlight Sonata. Yes, it’s definitely a challenge, but if you want to inspire the love of music in a young student, you have to give them a beautiful epic piece that is a challenge but within their reach. Because it’s a truly great piece and not a small simple exercise/song out of a training book, the student feels she’s capable of reaching great heights. Plus, there’s a lot of theory that correlates to the piece and the students can understand the practical application of theory; it’s not abstract anymore. My benefit is that I get to learn the piece, too. : D

Vox warm up. Listen to recordings from Winnie’s on the train to get in the zone and remember ornaments that worked well. Here we go. Most importantly – have fun and chill. That’s what it’s all about.

 

Audition Video Shoot Prep

Tomorrow – a music video shoot of three songs for content and also an audition.

Goals:

  1. Warm up on piano and voice – because it feels so good on piano, even if I won’t be playing in the shoot. This is a reward I give myself – it’s beneficial across multiple levels. Makes me feel good, brings me to my inner childlike state, and benefits my musicianship.
  2. Watch videos of MKO Sun performing live. That band and the singer, Hannah Macklin are my new inspiration. Great hooks and singing. Exploratory instrumentation. Transcribe MKO Sun’s vocal runs.
  3. Practice the pieces for tomorrow: Just You, Pulses, and Georgia On My Mind.

I feel a bit unprepared going into this because I haven’t given much time to practice this week. I’ve been working on the grants non-stop and relaxing in ways that I should not – procrastinating with going to practice and getting out the door on time. Self-motivation!

Warm ups on piano – scales. Woooph – Fm is a good one to practice! A good challenge to play it without looking at the keys. Now I see why scales are good. I develop muscle memory in my fingers that relates to the music I’m playing. I can move much more quickly through learning a piece and will arrive at performing it sooner.

Vocal warm ups: hums, ya 1234531 ascending with staccato descending. I use this with my students but rarely use it for myself – definitely an athletic exercise and important to do.

Practicing MKO Sun’s “Withoutcha”. Transcribing it on piano and transcribing the vocals. Learning new piano approaches for keyboard solos and rhythms, like a tremolo on an octave – what is that called? Hannah’s vocal runs move like waves in how they float. They’re fun to do when you figure them out.

Thoughts on the upcoming Brooklyn Arts Council SU-CASA songwriting residency with senior citizens. It is tied WITH my goal of being a better songwriter, pianist, and music director. I’ll use ideas from the seniors to inspire works that I’m writing my my next album. Plus, getting there early to warm up on piano and vocals 1) starts my day with my focus – musical mindset and good shape; 2)  makes me feel more confident by being prepared.

Performance review of Monday’s gig at Winnie’s – feeling good with Georgia On My Mind. Here’s a bootleg recording from the gig. Tim (guitar) and Lars (bass) are stellar, as always. I like the vocals best when they come in on 3:15.

 

 

Plan for tomorrow’s video shoot:

  1. Arrive at Sage at 8:15am for a relaxed vocal and piano warm-up. Head out at 9:15am. Balloons.
  2. Just You – extend the bridge for riffing and soloing. Play midi keyboard for bridge? TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 vox hamonies.
  3. Georgis On My Mind
  4. Pulses – TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 vox hamonies.

 

Influences: MKO Sun, Oh Land, FKA Twigs

Sobbing woman at Starbucks

The other day, 4:30pm, Financial District, NYC
I was working on my computer at Starbucks, and this woman sat down next to me, sobbing. I debated – should I reach out? Would she rather be left alone? I decided to ask if she was ok, and if she didn’t want to talk, well, I tried. 
She was open to it. She revealed that she was angry and frustrated at herself for screwing herself over at her job. It wasn’t the first time she took a certain action, and she was so upset for not learning her lesson this second (or third – or fourth) time around. Her frustration with herself meant ultimately that she felt a lack of power over herself. I got the feeling that she just wanted to step away from decision making at the moment. She was exhausted. She explained that she just bought a pack of cigarettes and wanted to go smoke one, even though she quit smoking two months ago. I told her to throw out the cigs; that first act would give her back her positive power. Next, sit up and roll her shoulders back. The body senses confidence and, even if she didn’t feel it now, it would subtly signal her brain that she was taking charge again. All she wanted to do was go home and go to bed, but she had an appointment with a therapist. Because rescheduling that appointment would lead to a week off, I suggested she go to the appointment and then go home. I suggested she not make any decisions until she was rested and in a place of more confidence. 
This woman just needed someone to talk to, someone to listen and lend a hand. It helped a lot and she thanked me for doing a good deed for the day. We never even said our names. 
Lesson – people are open, people need and want help sometimes but might not ask for it. We never know what we’re all going through. All you have to do is be aware, offer to listen, and pick each other up. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes at Starbucks.