There’s No Leaving Now

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Perhaps one of the most daunting questions I will face over the next few years of my academic life will be “What happens when music doesn’t heal?”
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There have been times that music has failed me.
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Tonight is not one of them.
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The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
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When there’s no one here in the tryouts
who will live through your first day’s trial
of confusion when your faint and crooked smile
had to leave

And when you’re painted like a warrior
though you know it’s a raining war
when the first who spoke, but wasn’t really sure
was your heart

Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now.

And with your quiet damn devotion
to be lost like your child again
claim “forever” is a close and honest friend
to your ways

Will there be time to harvest rivers
that for so long refused to grow?
All the little things you need to build a home
for your love

Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now.

Your fear of the leading light
if they are with you and your heart won’t fail
To see through a fearless eye
and know that danger finally goes away
still you’re trying
but there’s no leaving now –

 

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Rest In Peace, Benjamin Curtis.

IMG_1586A couple years ago, a friend took me to see one of my all time favorite bands, Silversun Pickups. Living in LA, I had seen the band around, but never seen them play live. I was making music with my friend at the time, and he joked that any bandmate of his should get to see SSPU live at least once. That show was musical magic for me, but for more than just meeting the band after. 

That night, School of Seven Bells opened. I’d never seen them, or even heard any of their music. I was simply patiently waiting to hear Future Foe Scenarios or the like later on. However, School of Seven Bells began, and I was immediately mesmerized. I left my friends, and went awkwardly closer. As I watched them perform, I had one of those feelings I experience only every couple of years or so- the feeling of being completely intoxicated by musical and visual movement. I later learned the song I had seen and heard was called “Scavenger.”

If you know me or have been around me in the past couple of years, you know this song, whether you realize it or not. You know it, because you have heard it in my car, on a mix I made you, or in my apartment at a party. You know it because I have listened to it at least a thousand times, in a literal sense. My favorite song in 2013 was Where Do My Bluebird Fly by The Tallest Man On Earth. My favorite of 2012 was Scavenger, and I can’t stop listening to it. I have never tired of this beautiful, driving rhythm. I need not say anything of these dark, brutally honest lyrics, because they speak for themselves. They have jaggedly carried me in solidarity through more frustration and turmoil than I can convey. And I am a better person for it.

A mutual friend who also attended the SSPU concert alerted me earlier this year that they were on hiatus because Benjamin had fallen ill. LA Weekly explains that in February, School of Seven Bells announced Curtis’ cancer diagnosis, and artists including Devendra Banhart, and members of the Strokes and Interpol participated in fundraising efforts for his treatment. In October, bands including Silversun Pickups, M83, Cocteau Twins and Blonde Redhead wrote messages of support for Benjamin during his treatment.

I never met Benjamin. Even though I grew up in the Fort Worth/Dallas music scene, and was also an avid fan of Secret Machines, I knew nothing about him. What I do know is what it feels like to lose someone to cancer. He was far too young, and I humbly share that my heart breaks for so many others in learning this shattering news.

I know I am not alone when I say that it seems that every time I turn around this year, there is a death of a loved one. A devastation and losing of something that cannot be replaced. As we ring in another year, God help us take nothing for granted. May we love one another, support one another, and be there for one another. There’s no time not to.

I gave you the tide You didn’t stay You didn’t want it You let the day slide Into a drain Until you lost it You took me like a drug To make you feel loved To make you feel wanted To make you feel fire To make you feel like I made you feel something ‘Cause you can feel nothing I know what you are And you’re a fake You’re a scavenger Too scared to take part You only take ‘Cause you’re a coward On your own, You have no love On your own, You’re not enough You took me like a drug To make you feel loved To make you feel wanted To make you feel fire To make you feel like I made you feel something

ASCAP Spotlight: Ali Isabella

Teenage Dream – p_0115Part 1

By Diana Hereld | @christypaffgen

At the 8th annual ASCAP Expo, over 2,000 songwriters, composers and publishers gathered to take part in three days of lectures, workshops and live showcases specifically designed to promote knowledge and networking in their craft. Although all levels of accomplishment and success were represented, hallways and rooms bustled with people seeking their next break. The question at the front of everyone’s mind is constantly this: in an industry that’s progressively moving toward an age of D.I.Y. methods-how does one break through?

Throughout the Expo, many had the pleasure of meeting Ali Isabella, one of the events youngest guests-and headline artists. At just seventeen years old, Isabella has performed in many of the top clubs in New York as well as headlined two pre-Grammy parties-one honoring Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder celebrating the 54th and for St. Jude’s hospital the 55th annual Grammy awards. In 2012, she impressively became the youngest musician to ever perform in Wembley Arena in London, opening for country music superstars Reba McIntire and Lonestar. Isabella released her first album in 2012 “Say You’ll Be Mine” in the UK. In the US, her debut single, “New York City Country Girl” reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was #1 for four weeks on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

On Thursday evening, Isabella performed at the showcase in Loews Hollywood Hotel for the Women’s International Music Network (WiMN), an organization created to bring women together in the music industry. Upon hearing Isabella sing, one’s immediate reaction may in regard to the clarity and strength of her powerful voice. She has been dubbed “the next Taylor Swift,” and her performance did not disappoint. Watching Ali sing was the most natural thing on earth – in front of leading industry specialists, executive producers and composers, she was simply at home in her music.

Possibly the most refreshing element of Isabella’s identity stems from her humility. Found on the receiving end of bullying in high school, Isabella is quick to exhibit compassion and resilience regarding her experience without an ounce of smugness at her professional success. On being the youngest ever musician to perform at Wembley Arena, she spoke of being anxious, but in tradition to the sensation many singer-songwriters experience, once she was on stage, what she was born to do took over:

“When I go back to it and think about it, I don’t even really remember it because it was all so overwhelming…I mean, the stage is like my home because before I go on, I’m really nervous but once I go up there I’m just comfortable and I’m able to forget about it.”

On the journey to where she has come from, Isabella speaks highly of everyone involved. Initially discovered as a singer-songwriter via a chance meeting via her father in a New York Starbucks, Ali has come a long way. Her powerhouse team composed of her band, publicists and management function more as a familial unit than a management force. One thing is to be sure, however-they know exactly what they are doing. Armed up-front with publicist Andrea Pagano, manager John Velasco (Direction by Appointment, Inc.) has an impressive resume, including having represented Tina Turner, and having managed and/or published Marvin Gay, Hal David and John Denver.

A bit further down the line, not only is Isabella getting publicity via multiple live performances, an app well-designed to keep fans updated with everything they need, and a sponsorship with Casio, she is also pioneering ways to keep an active presence online. Her internet broadcast series will soon be released. She states:  “We just go around and interview people in the entertainment industry-people that have helped me along the way, people that I’ve met-I just think it’s a great way to be informed about people behind the scenes because they’re the ones that make everything happen along the way.”

Ali Isabella’s fresh yet endearing catalogue will catch one’s attention from the beginning. Songs like “What If” and “Crazy Beautiful Life” written by Ali herself exhibit a fresh, raw honesty. The goal of releasing her much-anticipated new album is set for this summer. When Ali speaks of being an encouragement to those who once shared the shoes of being nothing but a singer-songwriter with a guitar and a dream, she shares a unique insight into her character.

“I think it’s really important to write your own songs and tell your own story,” she says. “I think it tells people much more about yourself than just singing songs that people wrote for you, and I think people just appreciate that when you tell your own story because that takes a lot of courage to get up there and be singing about pretty deep stuff.”

What does this say about success for singer-songwriters in the music industry today? In a world where business ventures of all kinds are turning increasingly to D.I.Y. methods for marketing and promotion, the “traditional” music business model (which many of ASCAP’s largest successes have stemmed from) is still one that continues to prevail. However, there is much to learn from young Isabella’s story-any initial break is only the beginning of the equation. An artist must possess the qualities to not only acquire but also maintain their fans-which is the precise moment the online and social media tactics of D.I.Y. come in.

Check out Ali Isabella here:

https://www.facebook.com/IMAliIsabella
https://twitter.com/imaliisabella
http://www.youtube.com/user/AliIsabella

 

Diana Hereld (@christypaffgen) is a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter and music psychology/neuroscience researcher.

Krzysztof Penderecki, Jonny Greenwood, Mental Illness and Encephalography

I ran across something rather intriguing the other day, thanks to this friend and music enthusiast. It is a collaboration between two highly respected musicians:  Krzysztof Penderecki and Jonny Greenwood. Imaginative, provocative and innovate as these string arrangements may be, it is in a very small component of the composing process which lies the real fascination for me:

Penderecki’s Polymorphia also had a fascinating birth. The composer played a recording of Threnody for patients with mental illnesses at the Krakow Medical Center while the patients had encephalographs (brain-wave charts) made; he then based Polymorphia‘s musical lines around the shapes on their charts. In his reply to Polymorphia, Greenwood takes up that big, glorious and triumphant C Major chord — and then shatters that harmonic glow into smithereens. He begins with a strangely Bach-reminiscent chorale (“Es Ist Genug,” or “It Is Enough,” which is also the name of a famous Bach chorale) that Greenwood then distorts and dissolves over and over again. He builds tension and lets it drain away, takes up an idea and then lets it go in swirling eddies of motion.

The original article on NPR may be found here.

The “Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker” and my cover of Adele

In futile effort of keeping up with the Joneses of pop culture and music psychology, consider this my token post on Adele. Why?

 A) She’s fabulous

B) She just won big at the Grammys

C) WSJ Online has just released a major post largely on her hit Someone Like You entitled Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker 

D) I have covered her countless times, and her piano songs are a part of my teaching repertoire

In terms of the post WSJ released, I strongly recommend giving it a good read. The research was originally conducted at McGill, a university widely celebrated for their Music Perception and Cognition program, and home to celebrity writer Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music. In light of Adele’s recent superstardom and the widening knowledge and appreciation of music psychology as a whole, I’d wager this article is going to get some serious attention. While I wholeheartedly agree with it’s main premise, I find something deeply awry here, and it is found the in subtitle itself:

Why does Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ make everyone cry? Science has found the formula.

As a twenty-something young woman who has not only sung since age three, composed angsty love ballads on the piano for years but also been left by a lover in the worst way, I love Adele. Let me be clear on this: I love Adele. Someone Like You and Hometown Glory (as well as Rollin’ In The Deep, which I will teach tomorrow) are also favorites of my young vocal and piano students. However, I think if we look at that tag line again of this post-‘science has found the formula’- we will see that something is very wrong. I may be alone in my feeling here, but I doubt it. With the way EEG, MRI, fMRI and now even rtfMRI are developing, we know more about the human brain and it’s reactions to stimuli than ever before-more than we ever dreamed possible. I have a couple problems with the way the article glorifies grace notes and appoggiaturas-but most of all, how they glorify her. Yes, she and Dan Wilson have crafted a brilliant combination of soul, melodic intonation and dissonance in all the right suspended instances-but at the end of the day, I would be cautious in how objective we lean in quantifying beauty. There is a line to be drawn-there necessarily is. In saying “science has found the formula,” we have inadvertently taken the ‘magic’ (for lack of a better word) out of her song, and made it just that: a scientific formula. It should not be a commercial marketing scheme, however, and God forgive us should we ever make it one. It’s a great article, yes, and I hope everyone reads it. I only hope we can all take a step back from the science behind every mathematical placement of every ornamentation and remember why this lovely woman crafted the song in the first place.

And now, just for fun, a rough cover I did of Adele’s Hometown Glory in 2011.

Go Long, Final Go

Much remains to write about from my trip, my new vocational experiences as vocalist and researcher, and life in general, but until I may finally settle down (very possibly tomorrow, as I will fly home to Seattle for a week) I will share something personal that I have done since being back.

A year or so ago, a friend showed me this song by Joanna Newsom. It was the first thing I ever heard her do. Sometime shortly after, I fell in love with her and covered her myself on my little 2 track. It was suggested it was rather nice, and that I record it professionally. Here is the rough track from Dec 17, 2011. This song will never be mixed, or mastered. I will not cover her again, I’m finished now. But I couldn’t let her go without one last hoorah.

The following is my cover of one of the saddest and heartfelt songs I have ever heard. For the other two of hers that never fail to leave me completely wrecked and in awe, please go here and here. I hope you enjoy it.

Go Long (Vocal and Piano by Diana Hereld, originally recorded by Joanna Newsom)

 

Last night, again,
you were in my dreams
several expendable limbs were at stake
you were a prince, spinning rims
all sentiments indian-given
and half-baked
I was brought
in on a palanquin
made of the many bodies
of beautiful women
brought to this place to be examined,
swaying on an elephant:
a princess of india

We both want the very same thing.
We are praying
I am the one to save you
But you don’t even own,
your own violence
Run away from home-
your beard is still blue
with the loneliness of you mighty men,
with your jaws, and fists, and guitars
and pens, and your sugarlip,
but I’ve never been to the firepits with you mighty men

Who made you this way?
Who made you this way?
Who is going to bear your beautiful children?
Do you think you can just stop,
when you’re ready for a change?
Who will take care of you
when you’re old and dying?

You burn in the Mekong,
to prove your worth,
Go Long! Go Long!
Right over the edge of the earth!
You have been wronged,
tore up since birth.
You have done harm.
Others have done worse.

Will you tuck your shirt?
Will you leave it loose?
You are badly hurt.
You’re a silly goose.

You are caked in mud,
and in blood, and worse.
Chew your bitter cud,
Grope your little nurse.

Do you know why
my ankles are bound in gauze
(sickly dressage:
a princess of kentucky)?
In the middle of the woods
(which were the probable cause),
we danced in the lodge
like two panting monkeys.

I will give you a call, for one last hurrah.
If this tale is tall, forgive my scrambling.
But you keep palming along the wall,
moving at a blind crawl,
but always rambling.

Wolf-spider, crouch in your funnel nest,
If I knew you, once,
now I know you less,
In the sinking sand,
where we’ve come to rest,
have I had a hand in your loneliness?

When you leave me alone
in this old palace of yours,
it starts to get to me. I take to walking,
What a woman does is open doors.
And it is not a question of locking
or unlocking.

Well, I have never seen
such a terrible room-
gilded with the gold teeth
of the women who loved you!
Now, though I die,
Magpie, this I bequeath:
by any other name
a jay is still blue

with the loneliness
of you mighty men,
with your mighty kiss
that might never end,
while, so far away,
in the seat of the west,
burns the fount
of the heat
of that loneliness.

There’s a man
who only will speak in code,
backing slowly, slowly down the road.
May he master everything
that such men may know
about loving, and then letting go.

Nella Traduzione: Mike Patton’s Ore D’Amore

With the amount of spontaneity I seem to have exhibited over the past couple of weeks in posting posture, I suppose I’m right on schedule to next share instructions on how to best cater a Mongolian barbecue!  More appropriately, this may be a splendid example of my style of procrastination at its fullest: writing on anything and everything except the one thing I need be. Ah, well, just one more, right?

In my not-so-subtle defense, this is something I’ve needed to do for ages. I’ve only known the genius that is Mike Patton for 4 years now, and of his Italian tour de force even less. I find it funny actually that the same thing that had me pay him heed in the first place has now brought me back with the same respect and admiration: his grasp of the Italian language. This man does not just speak Italian, nor does he simply sing in Italian; he is fluent in the language and sound itself. Being blessed with the combination of absolute pitch, a general aptitude for languages and having spent a considerable amount of time in Milan and Florence, I’m fairly confident in my judgment of his mastery.

Until I am able to properly cover this song (no small feat given his immense orchestrations and extensive vocal range, even for a male) I have decided to translate it. If you’ll permit, I attempted go against the typical “grain” of translating Italian songs to English by providing a bit more literal than figurative translation. I have also tried to keep the verb tenses accurate, which is sadly uncommon in many current popular music translations of any artist. It is very possible that because of this, just for fun, I will go on to translate the entire album. We’ll see. Until then:  please enjoy my favorite song of his, Ore D’Amore.

Hours of Love

Hours of love I have not because we are not lovers anymore
I don’t have these moments
I don’t speak (unless I must) and I don’t ask anyone to stay with me
It is only you that I want, only you
Your place was here, close to me
I’m not able to look where you are not
My eyes on yours: and then…and then…
Hours of love I have not because we are not lovers anymore
After you, I have never loved again.
It is only you I see, only you
Your place was here, close to me
I’m not able to look where you are not
My eyes on yours: and then…and then…
Hours of love I have not because we are not lovers anymore
After you, I have never loved again
Hours of love I have not because we are not lovers anymore.
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Ore D’Amore written by Mike Patton
Ore d’amore non ho per non innamorarmi più
Io non ho che momenti
Parlo soltanto se devo e non chiedo a nessuna mai di restare con me
È solo te che vorrei, soltanto te
Il tuo posto era quì vicino a me
Guardare non so dove non sei
Gli occhi miei sopra ai tuoi e poi, e poi…
Ore d’amore non ho per non innamorarmi più
Dopo te non ho amato mai.
È solo te che vorrei, soltanto te
Il tuo posto era quì vicino a me
Guardare non so dove non sei
Gli occhi miei sopra ai tuoi e poi, e poi…
Ore non ho per non innamorarmi più
Dopo te non ho amato mai
Ore non ho per non innamorarmi più!