July 28, 2004

randomly speaking

I believe in chance and randomness. I believe in their capacity to drive creation. I believe an unplanned, totally spontaneous moment is impossible to reproduce. So I try to capture these and then decide how to use them later. Much of what I capture is never used, for obvious reasons, but the larger my library gets, the greater the likelihood that I will be prepared to follow an inspiration on a moments notice becomes.

In fact, much of my process is actually one of taming various bits of randomness and forcing them to behave relatively well within the structure of a song. It might be a melody or a formal idea or a rhythmic structure, but it usually originates in some seemingly random way. Really, I usually have no idea where something comes from and feel like I have no control over that at all. I exert my control in this taming process, though I don't like that word. I mean, my stuff is WILD, right?! Randomness is fantastic inspiration to me, but without some sort of smoothing process, it remains random and not all that interesting like that guy who 'recreated' the sound of the early universe.

I am inspired by Andy Goldsworthy in many ways, but this notion of randomness is a big one. Mainly I just think his work is incredibly beautiful, but more directly, I love how he creates a certain type of order from something seemingly unstructured. He works with what is given to him, applies his creative genius and the results are usually stunning. I aspire to this.

Sometimes I wonder if random truly is random. There are mathematicians who would probably argue to the end of the earth that nothing is truly random and that the world is governed by various number and fractal theories, but I hope that randomness is alive and well and always will be. I love the mystery. Maybe randomness is like beauty in that it lies in the eyes of the beholder and there is no absolute. For me, I will always appreciate the unexpected, the unforeseen, the mundane little details that often go unnoticed and will, by the random compulsions of my brain, try to turn them into something meaningful and beautiful.

Posted by halsey at 10:48 AM | Comments (3)

July 27, 2004

a good review

It might not be a music publication, but it is certainly a magazine with wide distribution and a highly intellectual readership(!). And this short review is contained in the most read section: the ALUMNI NOTES.

You'll have to use the username '1995' and the password 'yamnotes' to access this brilliant bit of appreciation online (but don't tell the webmaster that I posted those credentials or I'll get in big trouble...). If you don't want to wade through the various baby and wedding updates of people you don't know, just go about halfway down and you'll recognize a few names.

I was happy to see this after a less positive review a while back. I'll take it however I can get it.

Posted by halsey at 08:42 AM | Comments (3)

July 25, 2004

I don't have a sister to spare

I am writing a new song about my sister and I just keep on listening to it and feeling it without really being able to critically work on it from a musical standpoint. I love my sister so much, but often I don't know how to express it and I fear that I may therefore not do so enough and inadvertantly give her the impression that I don't care as much as I do.
It is easier for me in many ways to write a song about her (to her?) as communication of these feelings than any other method. For me, this is the ultimate form of expression. I live with the topics I choose to write songs about day in and day out for weeks at a time while creating them and I can only do this with things that I care tremendously about. Sometimes it's the musical content that is paramount, and other times, like this time, it's the emotional content.
I miss my sister often but am not sure how to do anything about this. She is getting married soon and I have an irrational fear that this will pull her further away from me. That somehow this slight change of relationship status for her (they have been living together for a long time already) will signify something in my relationship with her. That I will lose part of her. It is quite likely that I am being selfish here, but I can't help it. I want more for myself.
Writing music helps me deal with these strong emotions. Usually it helps me feel better. And sometimes the song is good.

D, I love you.

Posted by halsey at 07:45 PM | Comments (1)

July 23, 2004

it's a glamorous life


there has to be another way!

Posted by halsey at 03:41 PM

July 21, 2004

legal expression

As many of you know, I have been excited about my words and voices project for the past few months and have churned out a few songs in this vein. I have been having a fun time searching around for things to record. Sometimes I have a specific plan and ask people to read certain words or answer certain questions, but other times I just leave it up to chance and see what happens. Both methods are fun. I have learned that you need a lot of raw material in order to get those special little snippets that are good enough to use in songs. So I figure I'll just make it a part of my daily life to record stuff and then when it comes time to start a new song (like right now) I'll have a library of ideas and examples to choose from.

However, recently I've been getting annoyed by the legal aspects of this 'daily recording'. Obviously I can't just go around recording anybody saying anything and assume that I am free and clear to use the recordings for artistic expression. But that's what I'd like to do! It is such a gray area of the law so it usually seems to become a game of risk assessment more than anything else. Of course, none of this matters at all until something I have done becomes widely enough known (or profitable enough) to create an issue. Unlikely as this may be, I still have hopes(!) and don't want to shoot myself in the foot before I get off the ground. I am extremely lucky to have a personal lawyer who is on retainer for nothing more than a consistent flow of new music and blog posts, so my decisions are at least partially founded in the vagaries of US copyright law.

I am excited about a new song right now, but am struggling to figure out whether or not I want to take the risk. This song would contain recordings of words that are not mine and are published and copyrighted by someone else. They aren't terribly unique or interesting on their own, but collectively they would likely be identifiable by someone very familiar with the source. But it's a good idea! And it's unlikely anyone will ever know where the words came from. But I'd hate to put in lots of effort and end up getting sued or prevented from including the song on a record. Argh!! The law sucks! Though I guess it protects me as much as it hinders me by protecting others.

Can't live with laws, can't live without 'em.

Posted by halsey at 02:50 PM | Comments (10)

July 20, 2004

listening list

Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson (with Sigur Ros) - Angels of the Universe
Eels - Shootenanny!
Fatboy Slim - You've Come a Long Way, Baby
Cake - Prolonging the Magic
The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free

Posted by halsey at 11:54 AM | Comments (3)

July 19, 2004


wav page update alert. I like to show off my Flash accomplishments, and it's fun to see GWB and AdT right next to each other.

Posted by halsey at 08:39 AM | Comments (3)

two non-musical questions

1) does Lance pedal in his sleep?
2) if so, does it keep Sheryl up?

Posted by halsey at 07:24 AM | Comments (4)

two non-musical questions

1) does Lance pedal in his sleep?
2) if so, does it keep Sheryl up?

Posted by halsey at 07:24 AM

July 15, 2004

the features of freedom

I couldn't decide whether to call this song 'The Horny Republican' 'cause that has a sort of special ring to it, or 'Democracy in America' which is, perhaps, a bit more apt. I decided to go with the latter, though it is not against the rules for the name of a song to change. Opinions welcome.

Democracy in America

Why Alexis de Tocqueville?
This is a very good question because I never would have dreamed that I would write a song involving de Tocqueville. Not that I am anti-him or anything, just that I tend to not be overly involved in theoretical political discussions.
So how did this come about? I was hanging out with a friend on the UCSC campus several months ago and I was trawling for things to record. An unsuspecting student sat down near me to study in an outdoor seating area of a café and the trap was set. I ended up just asking her to read out loud what she was studying so that she could both help me and get a good grade all at the same time. I am very thoughtful. Unfortunately, I never got her contact information (actually, I think I lost it), so if you are out there, Lulu, please let me know and thank you! I hope you got an A.

Are you a de Tocqueville expert?
Not at all. But I will provide a good example in support of the maxim 'it's not what you know, but who you know'. I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is an expert on all things philosophically political as well as politically philosophical. She is such an expert that she has three copies of 'Democracy in America' on her heavily laden shelves and has taught the book to scads of impressionable Harvard undergrads. I am really upset at her though because she refused to lend me her copy of the *best* translation. I mean, how can I create without the absolute best inputs?!?
S-girl was kind enough to give me a crash course in AdT which I recorded and you'll hear her words of wisdom throughout this song.

Some of the trumpet sounds pretty accomplished. Are you playing all of it?
No. There are actually three different trumpets in this piece: my own playing, a synth patch, and a bit stolen from another recording of mine (any guesses?!)

What's your favorite part of this song?
I'm not sure if this is my absolute favorite, but I really like the xylophone part that comes in on the repeat of the final 'verse'. It's funny (and fun) like most xylophone parts.

Have you read all of Democracy in America?
God, no! That thing is like 750 pages. And my translation sucks...(!)

Who would you put your money on in a celebrity death match between George W. Bush and Alexis de Tocqueville?
AdT - what about you?

Posted by halsey at 05:38 PM | Comments (4)

July 14, 2004

conceptually oriented pop art

Please welcome joekitsch.com to the highly selective and hence heretofore incredibly short list of links on aeblog.
I came across his site a few weeks ago and felt that there was some sort of philosophical connection between much of what he is doing and my newest work with words and voices. Perhaps it is the notion of putting words, both visually and aurally, into some form of creative expression and seeing what it does. I feel that we both treat words more as little objects in and of themselves which have both aural and visual components in addition to their semantic meanings and contribution to phrases, sentences and stanzas. In some ways, I think words try to increase the intellectual and decrease the emotional and in other ways they do just the opposite. And the added potential for misunderstanding is always exciting.

So go check out his stuff and let me know what you think.

Posted by halsey at 02:47 PM

July 13, 2004

control freak

This is a pretty cool different-than-standard-record-company-establishment approach to fostering musician's careers.

United Musicians

I agree that copyright control does lead to creative control and financial control; and then career control follows to a large degree. There is so much luck involved with any musician's career that any attempt to keep more in one's own hands is a good thing. I suppose I need to concentrate on getting a music career before I can worry too much about keeping control of it, but it would be nice to start in control rather than not.
But then again, this situation isn't as cut and dry as it might seem. There is a degree of control that I would be willing to sacrifice in the name of having more people hear my music. It's a fuzzy boundary for me; a vital balance. I'd give up financial control before creative control without question, but they are all so intertwined, it becomes much more situational than absolute. I am a control freak in many ways about my music, but my desire to be heard tugs in many different directions.

I saw the Wilco movie, 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart', over the weekend which chronicled the recording and eventual release of 'Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot', and it was a great example of an artist standing up to a record company in the name of creative integrity. Of course, if you are Wilco, you have a bit less to lose than say, ME, but nonetheless it's nice to see this sort of attitude prevailing in a big way. And it's also nice to see a big stupid record company do big stupid things and pay for it in a big stupid way.

Is this discussion going to help me get a record deal? Somehow I don't think the Reprise A&R guy would have been interested in me regardless. I also somehow doubt that they will be reading this...

Posted by halsey at 12:48 PM | Comments (4)

July 11, 2004

it's fixed! (I think)

Thank you to those who informed me that there was a weird issue with getting to the 'about me' page. And thanks for nothing for those of you who didn't say anything!!
The wait is over.

Posted by halsey at 06:05 PM | Comments (3)

July 09, 2004


I am experimenting with a new 'about me' page so that my masses can learn more about the man behind the blog. I realize it is rather presumptuous to even consider that anyone wants to know more about me, but I'm gonna run with it anyway. I have included an extra-special picture for your pleasure.
So check it out and let me know what you think as it will be a work in progress forever, I imagine.

Posted by halsey at 11:40 AM | Comments (5)

July 08, 2004

horny Republicans

This new song I have begun contains two things that are totally new for me: trumpet and politics. Maybe I should call the song 'trumpet politics'; or is 'political trumpets' better? I wonder what that would mean.

I used to play the trumpet when I was a kid, so I actually own a trumpet still. I have completely forgotten how to play the thing, but I have been able to squeak out a few notes nonetheless. It is really a great instrument and I had been wanting to use one for a while. It does cause problems that I have no idea how to play a particular note, so until I practice a bit more and re-learn how to produce some sort of melody, I'm using it as a rhythmic instrument. In fact, so much so that I'm actually treating trumpet notes like they are creating a drum beat. You see, I know how to play the drums, so everything must relate back to my comfort zone. I'm kidding - sort of - but it is true that this is the way the trumpet part worked out in this song.
And what about the politics? I'm not going to give away much, but it has something to do with Alexis de Tocqueville and George W. Bush. I'm hoping it might make me seem intellectual.

Posted by halsey at 09:34 AM | Comments (4)

July 07, 2004


OK, so there is some weird cosmic 007 super-secret spy thing going on here. Turns out that Bond is playing in Boston next month, and quite coincidentally, they appear to be performing at Paradise. Hmmm...perhaps it's *they* who want to meet *me*, not the other way around? Couldn't blame them, really...
Though I have not finalized my busy weekend schedules for August, I am certainly going to try to make this show. Gotta put my ears where my mouth is, right?

Posted by halsey at 02:44 PM | Comments (5)

July 06, 2004


My technical prowess has once again reared it's small yet determined head, this time resulting in a new listing of blog entries by category. Now you can see all my entries for new songs, performance reviews or my listening lists neatly grouped together. Pretty handy, I think.

Posted by halsey at 11:53 AM | Comments (3)


It was a year ago today that enemies of enormity began recording 'apply within'.

Wow. Time flies.

Posted by halsey at 08:56 AM | Comments (4)

July 05, 2004

listening list

Arnold Schoenberg - The Complete String Quartets
Underworld - Everything, Everything
Anders Eliasson - Concerto for Bassoon and Strings
Stabbing Westward - Ungod
Toru Takemitsu - Riverrun, Water-Ways etc.

This is a slightly incongruous list. Apparently I've been into classical lately.
How about you?

Posted by halsey at 07:40 AM | Comments (3)

July 02, 2004


OK, so this is an interesting attempt to make 'classical' music, or at least classical instruments, sexier and more exciting: BOND
I'm not sure if these fine young women are considered to be virtuosos, and if that designation (or lack thereof) has anything to do with their beauty.
But if you really want a treat, you should check out the video to their new single 'Explosive'.

RealPlayer stream
Windows Media

If you are a Mac user, you can alternatively view it for free via the iTunes Music Store.

Four hot women playing strings is a good thing, though I couldn't help but laugh through the majority of this video. I mean, who are they kidding? This is totally ridiculous. I don't know that I have ever seen more provocative hair tosses and heard more over-dramatic drums than in this piece.
BUT, I don't see any other string quartets on the iTunes Music Store. And there is something great about these beautiful instruments being showcased in any form whatsoever.
I'm not going to rush out and purchase any Bond, but if they played Paradise, I'd certainly check it out. OK, so you're thinking I'd go just to see these women in person (which, I'll admit is no small influence), but on top of that, seeing how they pull off this sort of crossover act in concert would be fascinating.

Posted by halsey at 11:55 AM | Comments (3)

July 01, 2004

Judging Halsey

OK, so I am less hectic at work today which means I can continue my post from yesterday. Where was I? Ahh yes, I was about to compile my list of self judgments and give you all the opportunity to weigh in on them. But are you going to feel comfortable saying anything negative in this public forum? I hope so, but I understand the hesitancy. Don't worry, if you say something really cruel or embarrassing or unusual, I'll just delete it! And you can comment anonymously; there is nothing to stop you now. So here goes...

I think my pluses are:

drumming - though not expert, I at least know how to play the drums, so this is good
song writing - I think I can write some pretty solid, if relatively simple, songs
lyric writing - I like my lyrics(!)

Uh oh, the minuses:

vocals - sometimes lyrics can't save the voice; on occasion I really like how a vocal part turns out, but I'm not blessed with a naturally good voice.
piano - simply put: I do not know how to play the piano (but I try!)
engineering - yes, I need help here
reliance on electronics - I would be much happier with real musicians playing the parts, but do not know people willing to play and record for free.

Don't be scared. Help me out. Agree with me; disagree with me; whatever. Or at least say something funny...

Posted by halsey at 12:35 PM