Lauren Hughes made this great post to help promote the concert feature the musicians form MSS. Thanks Lauren!
Deb is on a role at St. Paul! She was really feeling Micheal Jackson last week so she wrote and recorded a poem about Micheal Jackson. I made a MJ inspired instrumental track to back her up. Here is: Thriller.
Two new tracks from Eagan this week! Chad, who is typically doesn't speak much, has started to really enjoy singing into the microphone. Sometimes it's seems like he is singing a specific tune, but I can' figure out what it is. Feel free to let me know if you can hear the tune! Here is Chad.
Troy and Jeriel also did another one of their collaborations. When Troy yelled, "Dave is in the House!" I thought it was a good time to bring in a beat that Dave had created using the midi keyboard. Jeriel preceded to talk about one of his favorite super heroes, Ironman. Here is Iron Man is In the House.
We made another group composition with the apple valley group. I pulled some samples from Tommy, Kristen and Matt S playing the midi keyboard to create an instrumental track. I'm really excited to include Matt S into a composition, he has been pretty hesitant to participate. When he did, his playing sounded really nice. The bell sound at the beginning of this piece is Matt S playing the keyboard. Ashley spoke into the microphone, recording all of the names of the people in the group. It was the most Ashley spoke into the microphone since I started working with her! Here is Ashley and Friends.
This next tune was a collaboration between Hannah K and myself. I took samples from improvisations she did with the midi keyboard with a drum sound and a synth bass. Then she recorded "yo yo" all over the track which we both thought was pretty funny. Then I did a little keyboard improvisation to add something extra to the track.
Here is Yo Yo
Joan has been working on these lyrics for the past couple weeks. She put together two different sets of lyrics into one song. I think they fit together perfectly! I played some chords behind her while she recorded the vocal. She said she liked how they sounded so we kept them! Here is Until the End of Time
All of the participating artists are really getting into the groove of the recording process. It's something that is very new to all of them, so I feel lucky that most of people participating are feeling open to sharing. In the next couple weeks I'll be trying to record as much new music as possible while preparing for the concert on August 11th.
The next recording is a really nice statement from Deb at the St. Paul facility. This piece is a great example of me stepping out of the way so Deb can express her vision. In this piece Deb expresses her religious beliefs in a way that I don't personally identify with, but I'm really happy to be a conduit to help her to express these ideas. I improvised a keyboard part under Deb's improvised poem. Here is: I Don't Swear, I Don't Talk Back, I Don't Hit and I'm Saved.
We have found a bit of a routine at the Eagan center, everyone takes a turn recording on the mini keyboard, then Jerriel and Troy come up with some vocals. Jerriel is a big batman fan so he wanted to a piece about him titled Batman. Next weeks piece is about Iron Man!
Ashley is always excited to get to the keyboard but sometimes gets a little shy when she gets in front of it. I found if I play trumpet a long with her she is more willing to play. When we did this in our workshop I only had the recording running on Ashley's playing. That evening I recorded trumpet overtop of the recording I made of her playing. I used my new R-121 microphone I bought myself for Christmas! Here is A Duet by Ashley and Paul (I'm gonna talk to Ashley to see if she wants to find a new name for the piece this week)
Something that I find is great about these weekly workshops is that I'm always discovering something new. I had a piece ready to go for the Shoreview group to perform on the concert. My thought was that we were going to work on that piece each week until the concert and that would be that. But this week I found a second piece for them! Carol and Drea were improvising on two different keyboards. I found these two sounds that I think work really well together. These are the sort of sounds that I feel like you can play just about anything and you can't mess it up, so long as you stay in this atmospheric, soundscape sort of style. Carol wanted to name this piece after one of her favorite staff members, Holly.
It was a small group this week, Nick and Hannah worked on this piece together. Nick played the MIDI drum part and performed some vocals. Hannah played the bass parts and also performed some vocals. I added some melody lines for good measure. They were learning about the Efile Tower today, so that was the topic of discussion for this piece. While we were recording Nick kept joking with Hannah, asking her if she spoke french, he thought it was hilarious! He decided he wanted to name it Hannah K Speaks French. This one might sound best in headphones or with a decent set of speakers, the bass isn't coming through too well on my computer speakers, I will take another pass on editing to try and fix this next week.
Something I've been meaning to write about for a couple of weeks is Music Therapy. Specifically the fact that I don't have any music therapy training. I also don't view this work as music therapy. I approach the people at MSS and CCW as musical collaborators. The primary goal is to make music but doesn't mean there isn't therapeutic benefits, it's just not the primary goal in these situations. This idea actually came to me from Lori Bartol the Director of CCW. Since CCW is a vocational arts center, the primary goal is to make art so she makes a point to hire Teaching Artists instead of a Art Therapists.
I choose to approach the people I work with at CCW and MSS as collaborators because I think they are fully capable of making interesting and compelling music, and I think they should have the opportunity to engage in that creative process if it's something they want. They are some of the of the most interesting, and fulfilling collaborators I've worked with and I think if other people would engage with them as collaborators, they would make a similar conclusion!
The concert for my residency will be on August 11th from 3-5 pm at MSS Eagan facility. (3265 Northwood Circle, Eagan, MN, 55121). Looking forward to it!
Joan (below) is rocking out while singing and playing the keyboard. Joan loves performing covers like "Don't Stop Believing". She also sings great improvisations and has started writing some of her own lyrics down on paper.
I mentioned this new piece in an earlier post when the St. Paul group wrote their first poem as a collective. Leah and Deb recorded vocals and I sampled some MIDI synthesizer sounds that were played by some other participants. I also added some bird sounds that I recorded while sitting outside at the coffee shop working on this piece. The bird sounds fit with one of the themes of the poem, and I've been listening to a lot of bird sounds while I going walks in parks around Minneapolis.
The group named this piece Hip Hop.
The Apple Valley group listened to Get Out of That Funk and enjoyed it! I love this piece. Seth decided to say "Dad Get Out of That Funk!" into the microphone. He got into it and kept saying it over and over so we made a piece around it. I love the lyric because I love funk music. Also everyone gets into a bad funk every once and a while and it's good to have some one give you a reminder to get out of that funk! Ashley, Matt, Kristen and Myself all recorded MIDI synthesizer parts to go along with Seths vocals.
No Way! Really embodies the playful spirit of the Oakdale group. Hannah and Nick trade "No way! Yes waaay!". They are really cranking out recordings as a group so I'm going to share two from them this week. Mike Cannot Rap is another collaborative piece. Jonathon lovingly pokes fun at his staff member Mike in his vocal performance. Jonathon told me he's dedicating all of his music to Prince which I think is a really great idea. That reminds me, I've got to get to Paisley Park while I'm out here!
Where does the music Happen?
A question Liz Lerman deals with in her book "Hiking the Horizontal" is "Where does the dancing happen?" She writes a lot of dances that are written to be performed in a specific place. Site specific dances. Her dances are written to be performed in public parks, arts institutions, government buildings or even a shipyard.
I don't write site specific music, but where we perform music has consequences. Location, ticket price and other factors can determine accessibility. With CCW I really like performing at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Vine St because it is in a concert setting, it's free, it's in a public space, and it's handicap accessible. In the spring we also put on a concert with CCW in a public park which was really wonderful. The park was filled with family members and staff members and everyone performed with a lot of energy. It was a ton of fun! For MSS we are going to be performing at their Eagan building. We chose this space because it will be easily accessible to the participants. Additionally staff members who need to transport them will already know the location so drop off and pick up from the site is routine. It's best way for us to get as many of our MSS performers there as possible. The concert can't happen with out them!
Kim loves dance parties! I alway throw on a beat for Kim, she dances along or plays keyboard. Today she sang for the first time on the microphone, she sang about her Kitty Cat!
People are really starting to open up in the St. Paul group. Leah, who is typically very soft spoken sang "It's a Small World" on the microphone and recorded the poem the group wrote last week. Deb recorded her own poem as well as the group's poem. Joe sang "God Bless America" since it was the 4th of July this week. Others are enjoying experimenting with the microphone and synthesizer sounds on the keyboard. I'm going to work with the recordings we made this week and present them to the group and see if they like them enough to put them on the Bandcamp page.
I played the Eagan group the piece they recorded the week before, everybody liked it and agreed to post it online. Here is The Rap Song of the Beats. The participants played all of the instruments in this recording and performed the vocals. I did some editing and added a drum beat to help give the piece some cohesion.
With the Apple valley group we used a similar process. Here is their rendition of Lets Go Fly a Kite.
4th of July! I got alot of work done on recordings for MSS and some other projects. Also got to go on a really nice hike!
With Shoreview we listened to the piece they recorded last week: Shoreview Sounds. With this piece I had the participants play atmosphere sounds layered on top of each other. I did some trimming to the beginning and endings of each individual track to help give the piece some shape and musicality.
I met with Joe in Oakdale Friday morning, he wanted to record his song again. He is still hesitant for me to share his song with others, and is nervous about performing. I'm going to be working on boosting his confidence over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully he'll start to feel more comfortable with sharing his talents.
What's the Music About?
Liz Lerman asks in her book "What Is the Dancing About?". She devotes a couple of chapters to this question. A large part of her inquiry comes from the fact that a lot of her dances have concrete subject matters. The music I'm making with MSS and CCW can be concrete, but can also be abstract. Either way I always interpret a meaning.
For me, the music we're making at MSS is always more about the participants than it is about me. It's about amplifying their experiences and their voice through recordings and live performances. Sometimes that means I take myself completely out of the creative process. In this scenario I see myself as an enabler. Other times I'll play an instrument or create a backing track, if the participant says thats what they would rather. When I am less involved in the music making the piece can be more abstract or avant-grade. The meaning behind these pieces to me is that these people are beautiful just the way they are, no filter needed. The sounds they create are worthy of our attention and their humanity gives the music life. It may take more effort to hear the beauty but its there. I see a different underlying message when I play an instrument or create a backing track. Here I am approaching them as a collaborator. By collaborating with them we make a statement that we are partners and equals in making music together. I don't see either of these processes as better than the other, but I've always been aware of and sensitive to these ideas throughout these creative processes.