May 21, 2007

umm, yeah, I agree with that...

Download: Umm...

I recently was asked to be a visiting artist at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum to work with their teen group program called ArtLab. Every year, they ask an artist to come in to expose the kids to their work, talk to them about what it's like to be an artist in today's world and then ultimately to create something together influenced by the visiting artist's style. It was a bit atypical to have a musician, but the kids were particularly interested in reaching out the their community and the whole voice collection thing seemed to fit nicely with that desire.

So we went to the Danbury Mall and collected voices of mall rats, oops, I mean teenagers at the mall, with the BYOV booth and then used those as inspiration for a mural that is installed at the museum as well a piece of music. So as to not burden anyone with my visual aesthetic, I took care of the music and let the kids create the mural! It was actually great to get back into writing new material as it had been a really really long time. With all my work on the live performance, I have not had the ability to focus on writing new music, so it was great to be forced to turn something out.

So why did you write a piece called 'Umm'?
Of course, 'umm' is something I recorded a lot of from the particular demographic we were targeting, but I actually think 'umm' is a very interesting word. On the one hand, it is the epitome of banal in that it doesn't really mean anything and we are always told to not say it because it makes us sound dumb or something. But what 'umm' really communicates is that you are thinking about something; getting ready to say something; putting together your thoughts. In other words, you are getting ready to express yourself. And this is a very exciting moment for me as a musician and for me as someone who is fascinated by human behavior and interactions. When 'umm' is uttered, the gears are turning and the anticipation is palpable.

How does the mural relate to the song?
The mural incorporates words and phrases that we recorded as does the music. But there isn't actually much direct overlap because I decided to use primarily the anticipatory words rather than the statements or expressions of opinion that the kids made. You have to look to the mural for the substance; the music just gets you ready! Maybe we should call the mural 'Post-Umm'...

Posted by halsey at 04:12 PM

June 21, 2006

music for dead people

Several months ago, I was selected to participate in a juried sculpture exhibit at one of the most beautiful (and undiscovered) green spaces in the greater Boston area: Forest Hills Cemetery.

  • WHAT: Dwelling: Memory, Architecture and Place
  • WHERE: Forest Hills Cemetery, 95 Forest Hills Ave, Jamaica Plain, MA
  • WHEN: June 24th through October 31st, 2006
  • OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, June 24th – 3-6 PM

Yes, I know I am not a sculptor(!), but I love this place so much that I wanted to participate with music instead of a physical object. I interviewed people in the cemetery about why they were there, how it makes them feel, what they think about being surrounded by dead people etc etc, and have incorporated those recorded responses into 25 minutes of music. The hope is that people will listen to the music while walking around the grounds if possible, and I have created two methods for doing this. The preferred method is to download the music to an iPod or some such portable device and bring it with you. The alternative method is to call a number on your cell phone while in the cemetery and listen that way. You will also be able to leave a voicemail with your thoughts at the same number. The phone system will not be fully functional until the exhibit opens this weekend, but you can download and listen anytime from my website:

One Hundred and Four Thousand

There are fifteen artists participating in this exhibit and the people organizing it have set up a nice walk that takes you to all of the pieces as well as to some of the more interesting and beautiful permanent artworks and memorials on the grounds. Believe me, this is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Posted by halsey at 02:44 PM

March 05, 2006

"I have something that would be more interesting for you..."

I laid out a challenge for myself a few months ago, and now I have the results to share with you.

Download: Menya Besatzung Bateau

When my parents were visiting me around Thanksgiving time, I asked my dad to step into the studio and record a short story of something that happened in his life. That's not all that exciting in and of itself, but what makes it more interesting is that I asked him to record the same general story in four different languages. My dad has an incredible skill with languages and speaks German, Russian and French fluently in addition to English. I do not speak any of these languages (unfortunately!), so I set myself up for a situation in which I would be forced to treat my dad's words as nothing more than sounds; rhythmic and melodic. I listened to his voice purely as a musical instrument, with all semantics thrown out the window. It was nothing more than sounds that happened to be coming out of a human being rather than a mechanical or electronic device. I can't even imagine how schizophrenic the results must sound to someone who can understand these languages. I'll apologize in advance.


How did the words lead you to the music?
I will admit that primarily I was influenced by the rhythms of the phrases as opposed to the melodic aspects, but I used both throughout. The main loop was what inspired the primary piano riff and it all sort of took off from there. I wrote several other sections to the song that were more closely based on melodies that I took from the speech, but they got cut because they just weren't musically interesting enough to me. I guess that means that I was a little lenient with my 'assignment', but it's not like I'm in school or anything!

Did you notice any particular differences between the languages?
This is something I thought about a lot while working on this song. The German was not surprisingly filled with more percussive sounds and required a bit more compression due to the volume changes. The French was pretty smooth, I will say, and the Russian was surprisingly more melodic than I had expected.

What's your dad talking about anyway?
Though it was difficult, I didn't let myself listen to the English summarization until after I had completed the song. I won't make you guys wait though:

How does your dad feel about all this adulteration of his voice?
I guess he should know by now that he is in for it every time I record him, but I still feel like I have committed some sort of crime with what I have done to his voice in this song. Hopefully he'll like it regardless!

What on earth does that title mean?
absolutely nothing sensible (apologies to the Russians out there for my phoneticization...Cyrillic characters can cause problems on English language websites)

Can you pitch bend an oboe in real time?
I don't think it would be very easy, but I don't play the oboe, so really I have no idea.

Do people who speak more than one language impress you?
Yes!

Are you a typical American who speaks nothing more than partially broken English?
umm, yeah, I guess that's true...

Posted by halsey at 06:26 PM | Comments (2)

"I have something that would be more interesting for you..."

I laid out a challenge for myself a few months ago, and now I have the results to share with you.

Download: Menya Besatzung Bateau

When my parents were visiting me around Thanksgiving time, I asked my dad to step into the studio and record a short story of something that happened in his life. That's not all that exciting in and of itself, but what makes it more interesting is that I asked him to record the same general story in four different languages. My dad has an incredible skill with languages and speaks German, Russian and French fluently in addition to English. I do not speak any of these languages (unfortunately!), so I set myself up for a situation in which I would be forced to treat my dad's words as nothing more than sounds; rhythmic and melodic. I listened to his voice purely as a musical instrument, with all semantics thrown out the window. It was nothing more than sounds that happened to be coming out of a human being rather than a mechanical or electronic device. I can't even imagine how schizophrenic the results must sound to someone who can understand these languages. I'll apologize in advance.


How did the words lead you to the music?
I will admit that primarily I was influenced by the rhythms of the phrases as opposed to the melodic aspects, but I used both throughout. The main loop was what inspired the primary piano riff and it all sort of took off from there. I wrote several other sections to the song that were more closely based on melodies that I took from the speech, but they got cut because they just weren't musically interesting enough to me. I guess that means that I was a little lenient with my 'assignment', but it's not like I'm in school or anything!

Did you notice any particular differences between the languages?
This is something I thought about a lot while working on this song. The German was not surprisingly filled with more percussive sounds and required a bit more compression due to the volume changes. The French was pretty smooth, I will say, and the Russian was surprisingly more melodic than I had expected.

What's your dad talking about anyway?
Though it was difficult, I didn't let myself listen to the English summarization until after I had completed the song. I won't make you guys wait though:

How does your dad feel about all this adulteration of his voice?
I guess he should know by now that he is in for it every time I record him, but I still feel like I have committed some sort of crime with what I have done to his voice in this song. Hopefully he'll like it regardless!

What on earth does that title mean?
absolutely nothing sensible (apologies to the Russians out there for my phoneticization...Cyrillic characters can cause problems on English language websites)

Can you pitch bend an oboe in real time?
I don't think it would be very easy, but I don't play the oboe, so really I have no idea.

Do people who speak more than one language impress you?
Yes!

Are you a typical American who speaks nothing more than partially broken English?
umm, yeah, I guess that's true...

Posted by halsey at 06:26 PM

January 28, 2006

the dawn of Saturday

Download: Until I'm Ready

I wrote this piece specifically for the public radio program Weekend America. In fact, it will be broadcast today along with some audio documentation of my process and of a Bring Your Own Voice event.
I've always thought that the whole notion of a weekend and the five days on, two days off schedule of our culture is interesting. Some people I know are no different from weekday to weekend day, but others act like entirely different people when they are free of the confines that their jobs or school put on them.
Weekend America, as the name suggests, focuses on weekends and how people use them etc, so this topic was clearly appropriate for this piece.

To answer some questions:

Where did all the voices come from?
All of the spoken voices were collected two weeks ago at a Bring Your Own Voice event at the Museum of Science in Boston. The MoS is a significant weekend destination in Boston, especially for kids and families, so I was able to collect a ton of voices ranging from 5 to 75 years old.

What's up with all the horns?

I thought saxes and trumpet would provide a nice upbeat sort of weekend feel. It is really fun to arrange horns as well.

It sounds like that kid is singing "It's Saturday, the..." throughout the piece. I thought you only ask people to speak, not sing?

This was one of those amazing moments that happens sometimes as I'm arranging and listening to the voice recordings. The thing is, that kid didn't sing those words at all, and if you listen to them in context, they could easily pass you by as not terribly interesting. But when I put them on their own and stuck them in with the music, all of a sudden it was as if I'd asked him to sing a set melody. He was in key and tempo to what I had already written. When things like that happen, I know I must be doing something right.

How do you feel about Sunday evenings?
I used to not be such a big fan of them when I had a 'real' job, I will admit. I wouldn't feel dread exactly, but there would be some sort ofrestricting feeling that would pass through me when thinking about the reality of Monday morning. Nowadays, I am working for myself which more than anything means that I work on the weekends, so there isn't much difference at all between my weeks and weekends. Of course, the work is fun, so it's ok. There was an elderly gentleman who stated in his recording that his weeks and weekends weren't all that different either. But this was because he was retired and relaxed all the time. That sounds nice.

Do you wear pajamas?

Not any more.

Posted by halsey at 12:45 PM

the dawn of Saturday

Download: Until I'm Ready

I wrote this piece specifically for the public radio program Weekend America. In fact, it will be broadcast today along with some audio documentation of my process and of a Bring Your Own Voice event.
I've always thought that the whole notion of a weekend and the five days on, two days off schedule of our culture is interesting. Some people I know are no different from weekday to weekend day, but others act like entirely different people when they are free of the confines that their jobs or school put on them.
Weekend America, as the name suggests, focuses on weekends and how people use them etc, so this topic was clearly appropriate for this piece.

To answer some questions:

Where did all the voices come from?
All of the spoken voices were collected two weeks ago at a Bring Your Own Voice event at the Museum of Science in Boston. The MoS is a significant weekend destination in Boston, especially for kids and families, so I was able to collect a ton of voices ranging from 5 to 75 years old.

What's up with all the horns?

I thought saxes and trumpet would provide a nice upbeat sort of weekend feel. It is really fun to arrange horns as well.

It sounds like that kid is singing "It's Saturday, the..." throughout the piece. I thought you only ask people to speak, not sing?

This was one of those amazing moments that happens sometimes as I'm arranging and listening to the voice recordings. The thing is, that kid didn't sing those words at all, and if you listen to them in context, they could easily pass you by as not terribly interesting. But when I put them on their own and stuck them in with the music, all of a sudden it was as if I'd asked him to sing a set melody. He was in key and tempo to what I had already written. When things like that happen, I know I must be doing something right.

How do you feel about Sunday evenings?
I used to not be such a big fan of them when I had a 'real' job, I will admit. I wouldn't feel dread exactly, but there would be some sort ofrestricting feeling that would pass through me when thinking about the reality of Monday morning. Nowadays, I am working for myself which more than anything means that I work on the weekends, so there isn't much difference at all between my weeks and weekends. Of course, the work is fun, so it's ok. There was an elderly gentleman who stated in his recording that his weeks and weekends weren't all that different either. But this was because he was retired and relaxed all the time. That sounds nice.

Do you wear pajamas?

Not any more.

Posted by halsey at 12:45 PM

December 01, 2005

nature can be bright and shiny

Download: Nature...can be fabulous

This song is dedicated to my very good friend Susie. Though I don't tell her this directly as often as I should, her dedication and drive to positively impact environmental issues is inspirational to me. She knows what is important to her and through both the Earth Island Institute and the Conservation Law Foundation, she is daily making huge personal sacrifices to help make the world a better place. Basically, she kicks ass and I am honored to be her friend. I hope she likes this song! If we are lucky, she'll make a comment...

Now, the Q&A:

Did you almost record this song without any 'real' drums?
Yes. But then I realized this was silly. And now it is MUCH better.

Did that kid really say that you can sometimes be kind of good, but can sometimes s***?

No. But it's funny. I think.

What on earth are handbells?
They are tuned bronze bells mounted on leather handles and containing an internal 'clapper'. They have a slightly modified Liberty Bell shape, and range in size from an inch in diameter to six or seven for the lower notes. Check out the famous Schulmerich Handbells. I just learned that nice handbells have the ability to easily substitute clappers from soft felt to hard metal to get the appropriate sound. I also learned that they are super expensive!
Handbells always remind me of when I was a kid and I went to church with my family on Sundays. Every once in a while, they would have a more extensive music program to go with the service; these were the services I never minded attending.
The way I remember it, the chorus doubled as a handbell orchestra when performing certian pieces. There was something really amazing about a dozen singers standing at the front of this massive reverberating church hall ringing their handbells. Each singer would have one bell in each hand, so it took the full twelve people to have two octaves of bells. I would love to watch them play; there was this highly specialized technique they used, with an exagerrated arm motion and a little wrist kick at the end which seemed to somehow encourage the bells to reverberate even longer. The timing was never exact so most unisons came across as flams which gave the music a delightful imprecision. And because the full ensemble of bells was played by so many individuals, there was a distribution of the point sources of sound across the width of the chorus itself. I like the idea of each person only having control over two notes. Each player's part isn't all that interesting on it's own, but together they can be magic!
The bells are bright and shiny too.

Why did you use handbells in this song?

Because I recently was reminded of how beautiful they are.

Does this song contain the voice of a well-known public radio host?

yes!

Who might that be?
find out

Posted by halsey at 03:54 PM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2005

sharing the porch

Download: Two Tickets

Well, if Jack White can get away with "My Doorbell", I think I should be allowed to write a song like this without getting too much grief.

The spoken voice sounds like you the whole time.

some activities are lonely by necessity.

What is the text?

These are all notes that either I sent to other people or they sent to me as initial contact emails using the online personals. It would have been interesting to get these people to actually read them on tape for me, but there were two problems with that: one, almost all of them I've never met or have met, and well, it didn't work out; and two, then you'd know what pathetic pick up lines were mine and which weren't. I'm just not willing to tell you which one is which. Really, it's not going to happen. Sorry.

Do you like the online personals?
Yes, because of the hope they encourage.
No, because of the false hope they encourage.

When was the last time you bought two tickets for something you do?
8 days ago

Who is this song dedicated to?
each and every one of us who has wished for something that we don't have and tried to get it. don't ever give up!

Posted by halsey at 01:34 PM

sharing the porch

Download: Two Tickets

Well, if Jack White can get away with "My Doorbell", I think I should be allowed to write a song like this without getting too much grief.

The spoken voice sounds like you the whole time.

some activities are lonely by necessity.

What is the text?

These are all notes that either I sent to other people or they sent to me as initial contact emails using the online personals. It would have been interesting to get these people to actually read them on tape for me, but there were two problems with that: one, almost all of them I've never met or have met, and well, it didn't work out; and two, then you'd know what pathetic pick up lines were mine and which weren't. I'm just not willing to tell you which one is which. Really, it's not going to happen. Sorry.

Do you like the online personals?
Yes, because of the hope they encourage.
No, because of the false hope they encourage.

When was the last time you bought two tickets for something you do?
8 days ago

Who is this song dedicated to?
each and every one of us who has wished for something that we don't have and tried to get it. don't ever give up!

Posted by halsey at 01:34 PM

November 04, 2005

I have seen them before

Download: The Clouds | read lyrics

Well, this song has taken me a LONG time to complete and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because I had a bunch of BYOV events while working on it or perhaps I have just been focusing on other things. Or maybe this particular song caused some difficulties itself for some musical or lyrical reason. I really don't know, but I do know that I am glad it is done and that you can now listen to it.

These will help you understand the multitudes:

Where did you collect these voices?
Art Interactive in Cambridge, Jim Kempner Fine Art in NYC and on the street in Harvard Square

How many people recited this poem for you?
11 women, 9 men

Can you dance to a song in 11/8?
of course - just try it...

What's your favorite kind of cloud?
cirrus

Who's your favorite dog?
Cirrus

cirrus1_sm.JPG

How can the bassoon be so goofy and yet so beautiful all at the same time?
this, I do not know

Are you afraid of clouds?
no

Posted by halsey at 05:04 PM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2005

more feeling than structure

Download: HOME audio

You will be glad to hear that I was able to finish my piece for the 'Unlearned Response' show which is currently on exhibit at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. It was a bit touch and go there for a while - just ask the other artists in the show - but in the end, we were all able to finish what we needed to finish and the response overall was positive. It seemed like between the fire marshall and an uncooperative Windows server, we were being conspired against, but persistence, compromise and flexibility prevailed.

For me, the notion of HOME is very powerful. It is something that conjures up feelings all across the board from comfort to longing to peacefulness to sadness. This complexity is exactly why I wanted to write something about it.
The spoken content in this song is all taken from interviews with the four artists who participated in the show. I asked them about their personal feelings and experiences regarding HOME as well as how they had chosen to represent HOME in their creations for the show. I am very grateful to them for indulging me and sharing their honest and heartfelt feelings on tape. Their willingness to open up was what made this song possible.
The music in this piece is essentially one steady motive that repeats for the entire 8 minutes. Yes, that does sound boring, but hopefully it is not as there are layers of instrumentation and voices that pile on top throughout that time. This is how I view the concept of HOME. Something that is primarily an ongoing baseline of support and reassurance, but which is constantly built upon by outside influences and internal shifts.

In the end I feel that I was able to create an amalgamation of what HOME means to five individuals. We all have our own feelings - some of which overlap and some of which contradict - but one thing that became clear to me throughout this process was that we all have strong emotions about HOME. And this is good.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you would like to contribute some of your own thoughts about HOME to this evolving piece, go to the HOME audio page and answer some questions for me.

Posted by halsey at 10:37 PM

more feeling than structure

Download: HOME audio

You will be glad to hear that I was able to finish my piece for the 'Unlearned Response' show which is currently on exhibit at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. It was a bit touch and go there for a while - just ask the other artists in the show - but in the end, we were all able to finish what we needed to finish and the response overall was positive. It seemed like between the fire marshall and an uncooperative Windows server, we were being conspired against, but persistence, compromise and flexibility prevailed.

For me, the notion of HOME is very powerful. It is something that conjures up feelings all across the board from comfort to longing to peacefulness to sadness. This complexity is exactly why I wanted to write something about it.
The spoken content in this song is all taken from interviews with the four artists who participated in the show. I asked them about their personal feelings and experiences regarding HOME as well as how they had chosen to represent HOME in their creations for the show. I am very grateful to them for indulging me and sharing their honest and heartfelt feelings on tape. Their willingness to open up was what made this song possible.
The music in this piece is essentially one steady motive that repeats for the entire 8 minutes. Yes, that does sound boring, but hopefully it is not as there are layers of instrumentation and voices that pile on top throughout that time. This is how I view the concept of HOME. Something that is primarily an ongoing baseline of support and reassurance, but which is constantly built upon by outside influences and internal shifts.

In the end I feel that I was able to create an amalgamation of what HOME means to five individuals. We all have our own feelings - some of which overlap and some of which contradict - but one thing that became clear to me throughout this process was that we all have strong emotions about HOME. And this is good.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you would like to contribute some of your own thoughts about HOME to this evolving piece, go to the HOME audio page and answer some questions for me.

Posted by halsey at 10:37 PM

August 19, 2005

it really does hurt your brain

Download: the inevitability of bugs

This song started out sort of as a joke. I was thinking I could just whip it out and have some fun with it, but as I got going, I began thinking about the broader implications, and ended up taking the whole thing a bit more seriously. Well, not too seriously, but enough so to make it a 'real' song somehow.
'Debugging' is, of course, a term used by computer geeks to describe the act of fixing their code. I often think that my life is a constant debugging process; trying stuff, seeing what works, fixing bad brain code, you know, that sort of thing. It's just the way it is. I am a work in progress, and I always will be.
So all the voice clips in this song come from the masses of wonderful people who agreed to help me test and debug my online recording system. There are plenty of 'testing 1..2..3..'s, but, as you'll notice, people had a little more fun than that at times. This whole process was somewhat painful, but it is working great now and I'm using it on the sidebar of my blog, as you can see. Give it a try sometime!

Do you know how to code?
not really, though I used to be not so bad at C way back in college

Why does the chorus start out being all wacko and screwed up and then gradually turn into something simple and easily sung by a group?
you figure it out.

who was in your sing-along?
people at Rob's house

do you wish they were more drunk?
yes

Does your brain hurt right now?
yes

client_nc.connect("rtmp://aevidence.dyndns.org/recordings/room_01");
out_ns = new NetStream(client_nc);
in_ns = new NetStream(client_nc);
Replay_video.attachVideo(in_ns);
??

YES!!

Is that really a harpsichord?
yes

I always thought you were cool, but I guess not.
you learn something every day

Posted by halsey at 11:47 AM

it really does hurt your brain

Download: the inevitability of bugs

This song started out sort of as a joke. I was thinking I could just whip it out and have some fun with it, but as I got going, I began thinking about the broader implications, and ended up taking the whole thing a bit more seriously. Well, not too seriously, but enough so to make it a 'real' song somehow.
'Debugging' is, of course, a term used by computer geeks to describe the act of fixing their code. I often think that my life is a constant debugging process; trying stuff, seeing what works, fixing bad brain code, you know, that sort of thing. It's just the way it is. I am a work in progress, and I always will be.
So all the voice clips in this song come from the masses of wonderful people who agreed to help me test and debug my online recording system. There are plenty of 'testing 1..2..3..'s, but, as you'll notice, people had a little more fun than that at times. This whole process was somewhat painful, but it is working great now and I'm using it on the sidebar of my blog, as you can see. Give it a try sometime!

Do you know how to code?
not really, though I used to be not so bad at C way back in college

Why does the chorus start out being all wacko and screwed up and then gradually turn into something simple and easily sung by a group?
you figure it out.

who was in your sing-along?
people at Rob's house

do you wish they were more drunk?
yes

Does your brain hurt right now?
yes

client_nc.connect("rtmp://aevidence.dyndns.org/recordings/room_01");
out_ns = new NetStream(client_nc);
in_ns = new NetStream(client_nc);
Replay_video.attachVideo(in_ns);
??

YES!!

Is that really a harpsichord?
yes

I always thought you were cool, but I guess not.
you learn something every day

Posted by halsey at 11:47 AM

August 03, 2005

my true rockiness

Download: Pretending To Not Exist

I wrote the lyrics to this song this past winter while I was on a walk in the woods behind my house right after one of those huge snowstorms we had. I was the first person in the woods that night, so I was breaking trail the whole time. The moon was bright so I didn't need a flashlight and everything was totally quiet with the muffling effect of the snow.
As with much of what I write, the inspiration for this one came from a split-second image I encountered. I guess I was just trying to re-create it in words because it was so remarkable.
I forgot to bring paper and a pen, so as I was writing the words in my head, I was getting more and more nervous that I would forget them before I could write them down. I probably did forget some, but replaced them with others when I got back to the house. It all came out pretty much at once with only a few edits happening along the way. This only works for me when I am still in the moment; still have the feeling in me; still have the catalytic image firmly lodged in my head. I feel very lucky when this sort of thing happens. It isn't often, but I do whatever I can to take advantage when it does.


So what's the poem about anyway?
I'm not really sure, to be honest.

You really like those woodwinds, don't you?
Yes!

When did you record the voices?
I recorded some at my cd release party in Portland, ME, and some at my cd release party in Boston. And one straggler happened a couple weeks ago when I realized I needed another. I had no idea what I was going to do with the recordings initially, but I felt there was something about the words that would make for a good song, so I asked people to read them anyway. I like collecting and adding to my coffers so I have lots of choices as I enter into a new song.

Did your readers have trouble reading any lines in particular?
Interestingly, over half of the readers read the line that became the title of the song incorrectly (this is not the title of the poem). It is amazing how the forces of socialization and correct grammar can overcome words written in black and white right in front of you. Yes, I actually meant to write 'pretending to not exist', not 'pretending not to exist'. What a difference.

Do you like whispering?
it's a secret...

Posted by halsey at 09:08 AM

July 06, 2005

essentially, a way of reprocessing

Yet again, I have repeatedly been side-tracked away from actually writing music. Thankfully, I had the past week to focus energies on finishing up this song.

This is dedicated to the Quitter's Club; you know who you are.

Download: Goodbye, Dear Situation

Appropriately enough, it is about my EX-job and the process of leaving it. It is surprisingly hard to walk away from anything as significant as a job or a relationship or whatever even if it sucks. It is all you know, having been pounded into your life for so long, and in some ways, an unpleasant known can seem less scary than the unknown potential for something better.

Just have a listen. Maybe you've felt this way before.


why doesn't this song sound happier?
this is a good question. I suppose the answer is because though I am, in fact, very happy to be leaving my job, the whole process of jumping into a huge unknown is scary and I feel some apprehension because of that. There is no question in my mind that leaving the job was the right thing to do, but that doesn't mean I will be successful at my new endeavors.

What are you going to do with yourself now?
sit around the house and watch TV all day. maybe I'll surf the internet too...

Do you like having conversations with yourself?
Yes.

Do you think that you sound wicked smart in those recordings?
absolutely. that's why I included them.

Do you get paid more if you use lots of business lingo in your conversations?
yes; that's just the way it works in corporate America.

Those three marimba lines in the penultimate section are really cool.
thanks.

Why did you quit your job?
if hearing this song doesn't make that abundantly clear, you have issues.

How much does soda cost now?

soda.jpg

Why is this song so long?
well, I worked there for a while.

was there a specific reason you used the sped up recording of your piano tuning in this song?
YES

Can you get fired for writing this song? Oh yeah, I guess not anymore...

Posted by halsey at 11:18 AM | Comments (7)

May 09, 2005

halseyblad

Download: Intended and Unintended

I feel like it has been so long since I've finished a song, I almost don't know how to do it anymore. I started this one way back in February while I was in the midst of album finalization. Needless to say, it progressed very slowly through the album release and the subsequent BYOV events etc, but here it is, ready for you to hear. Technically speaking, this is the first song to include voices collected in the Bring Your Own Voice booth.

FAQ

Is there anything more self-centered and egotistical then writing a song where the only words (almost) in it are your own name?
No.

Where do those weird sounds come from?

tah_hassy2.JPG

This is a Hasselblad 500c medium-format camera hand-made in Sweden in 1968. But this is not just any Hasselblad; this is the Hasselblad that took the photos on the artwork of words and voices. It is a VERY special Hasselblad. And that's saying a lot given that the Hasselblad is the official camera of space (as in outer).

Why are names important?
maybe they are not, but we all have one (or two, or three)

Did you create sentences, or did you get people to say that stuff?
I am a re-arranger. I remix people.

What is it about timpani?
I don't know, but one time I was told by a source I remember to be reliable that the timpanist was the highest paid member of any orchestra. This makes sense to me.

How does it feel to have finally released another song?
Incredibly refreshing and overly nerve-wracking. I am really hoping that with the additional time I have created for myself in the near future, I will be able pick up the pace a bit and write my next song quicker. I have so many ideas for new songs, it's hard to know what to jump into next.

Do you love your name?
When I was growing up, I hated the fact that my first name was so weird. Now I love the fact that I hardly need a last name.

Does anyone ever mispronounce your name?
of course not

Posted by halsey at 09:43 PM

November 09, 2004

ego boost

Download: The Truth is Out

I couldn't resist writing a song wrapped around a particular snippet of audio I obtained when collecting fodder for 'predictable?'. It was just way too good to pass up, and I am always looking for ways to boost my self-confidence. I hope that you'll like it as well.


Is this song stimulating?
Oh, yes it is.

Is this song even funnier than the last one?
This is hard to say. I suppose it mainly depends on how you approach listening to the song and interpreting it. It also probably depends on whether or not you know me. All I can fairly state is that it makes me laugh even after hearing it something like 300 times.

Is this the last song you plan to record for your first 'words and voices' album?
probably

How did you record and mix the drums for this song?
This song is the first one I have recorded with my new G5/Digi002 setup. I was way too excited to get going on it to actually take the time to set things up correctly from the start. I figured I would just work out the kinks as I went. I was right for the most part, and thankfully, didn't run into too many snags.
So, back to the drums. I had an idea for the drum track, but wasn't ready to record the usual five simultaneous tracks, so I just set it up for one overhead to record the whole kit. And then I ran it through Sans-Amp for some distortion and it sounds pretty darn cool so I just stuck with that method.
I split the drums in the chorus into two tracks, pinned them hard right and hard left, offset them slightly, took off the distortion, and boosted the highs. This is all intended to open up the mix.

Does the fact that you are writing funny songs recently mean that you are happy?
Wow, who are you, anyway, asking these personal questions on this public blog?! I'm not going to answer that one in this forum, but feel free to follow up with me directly if you really want to know...

Are you desperate for a date?
no comment.

Are you making fun of anyone or anything?
that would be a fairly safe bet.

Did you pay her to say that?
No.

Yeah, right.
I'm serious!

Posted by halsey at 10:41 AM | Comments (2)

October 22, 2004

your formula is frightening

Download: predictable?

This song has been a long time in the making. I have been traveling a lot lately and the company I work for was recently acquired, increasing my work load significantly. This has all led to dramatically reduced time for me to spend in the studio which has been quite frustrating. It is difficult to work on a song in little spurts now and again when I get the time. I work much more effectively when I have time every day to actually be writing and recording. That way, it's always in my head. I am lucky to ever have this time, I suppose, but I do make it about as high a priority as you can get (often to the detriment of other activities like, say, a social life). Ahh, the price of creativity. Enough of that.

As I mentioned before, this song is about me in the corporate world. This is not a 'me' that I carry around out of the office so much, not that I try to hide it, but I get enough of it when I am there. There are uses for having a corporate job for sure (you get paid, for one), but I have to admit that much of what happens in this world is very funny when viewed with a certain perspective.


Who are all those people speaking?
Every last one of them is someone I work with currently and have worked with for at least three years.

Where do you work?
It used to be @stake, but now it's Symantec.

Where did those words come from?
Way back in the first weeks of my employment at @stake, I was required by the 'People Team' to take a personality test to see how I could be most effective at work. You can imagine how useful the results were. They are more useful now, four and a half years later, in this song then they ever were before.

Do you hate working for a corporation?
Are you trying to get me fired or something?!?!?!

Will this song be funny or at all interesting to people who don't know you personally?
I have no idea, but I'm hoping that the resistance to corporate classifications and foolish consistencies is fairly wide-spread.

Do you believe in personality tests?
Oh yes, absolutely!! Any way the intricacies of the human emotional existence can be reduced to an algorithm and computed at will is something I have a HUGE amount of faith in!!

Are you a sarcastic lying bastard?
yes

Posted by halsey at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2004

storms make me lonely

Imagine yourself standing with your eyes closed on the southernmost tip of an island that you love more than anything else in the world. It is night-time. It is chilly, but in a good, crisp way. The wind was blowing all day and the swells are still crashing onto the craggy shoreline beneath your feet.
You are alone; but not entirely. Encircling you are seven voices, perched like benevolent gargoyles, each on their own personal promontory. They are singing. There are no words. Your eyes are still closed and you imagine their silhouettes. You think about storms.

Imagine yourself in this place.

Now listen to this song.

Heavy Weather

Posted by halsey at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

August 27, 2004

even though I did not feel the wind

So it seems that I underestimated myself earlier thinking that I wouldn't finish this song before going on vacation. I got close enough to taste the finished product and just couldn't stop working until I got it done. Also I was having a fun time and it was going well.
I am now up on Islesboro enjoying the incredible weather and I just listened to the song again to make sure that I still liked it. Thankfully it passed the test, so it's time to post.

Download: leaf

I got help from a bunch of people on this song. First and foremost, I am using some really cool selections from the didgeridoo recording session I did with Geoff a month or so ago. I extracted a great loop that Geoff and I had played together and then used some little solo bits thrown in throughout. I think it is cool how I often record stuff having no idea what I might use it for and then am able fit it into something later on or use it as inspiration for something new. In this case, this song began with the didgeridoo loop. I built everything off of that and then used some other didgeridoo parts to add color on top.
I also got lots of help with voices. Over the past several months, I have asked a number of unsuspecting (and a few suspecting) friends to record a bunch of things, including this particular poem. I thank Hoyt, John G., Julie, Johannah, Ethan, Darcy and Margie for their voices and their willingness to participate in these ongoing experiments of mine despite the oft expressed strong dislike of the sound of their own voice. I knew I could make you all sound cool.


What's that poem about?
I'm not entirely sure. I think maybe it is just about that undefinable feeling of nostalgia that happens sometimes. The one that is totally unmistakable though simultaneously nearly impossible to describe or understand the source.

Did you write the poem?
Yes. Thank you to Peter Richards, the accomplished poet and inspirational instructor with whom I studied several years ago.

Do you really have a friend who is a leaf?
No specific leaf, although I have felt a few hints of fall up here in Maine and am really excited for the crisp weather and the forthcoming multitudes of crinkly orange.

How many drum parts are there in this song?
Two; one which is part of the didgeridoo loop and a second which is essentially the main beat. I liked my first take of this main part, but recorded it before I knew what the structure of the song would be so I ended up trying to 'franken-drum' my way to a complete drum track. This was fine for building the song, but I finally gave in and recorded a new take start to finish and (big surprise) it flowed much better. Sometimes I get too attached to little parts of songs - presumably because I hear them over and over - and then have a hard time giving them up even though I have lost the ability to judge them impartially.

Did you use the malletKAT in this song?
Yes. I played that sixteenth note synth riff with the mallets, along with the marimba doubling of this part. I actually wrote it on the malletKAT too.

Posted by halsey at 01:05 AM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2004

strengths in your problematic issues

Download: My Sister's Getting Married

This song began with a weekend hanging out with my sister and then became more solidified through the phrase 'I don't have a sister to spare'. I realized in writing this song that this phrase has many interpretations and I don't mean all of them, but I suppose that is often the case. I don't want to dictate how people can interpret my music, but I also don't want anyone to have the wrong impression of how I feel about my sister.
The fact is, I do only have one sister and I do care tremendously about her. I always want the best for her and will do what I can to help this happen. As I ruminated before, there is something about being 'married off'. I plan to truncate that phrase to simply 'married' in my situation as I don't like the 'off' part.
I really just want to create something that shows people how it is that I interact with my sister; how much fun she is and how funny she is. How lucky I am to have such a cool sister. How dorky we both are.
There is something irreplaceable and unmistakably unique about a sibling relationship. We shared a childhood with each other in a way that is impossible to reproduce, and the commonality of these early years has a powerful effect on later year relationships. The experience of childhood usually seems perfectly normal until some perspective and gathering up of self-knowledge makes it seem totally screwed up all at the same time. My sister is my only sounding board for this spectrum.
In the end, I view this song as not really a tribute or some sort of clear statement, but more of a roundabout representation of my roaming feelings about my sister over the last little while. It makes sense to me, but you, my friends, are a different story. Let me know.


When did you record your sister?
Well, the date is in the song(!), but it was the most recent time I saw her - she was visiting my parents. I wanted to record her reading a few poems and answering some questions and then the session expanded into much more including, most significantly, some excerpts (with ocassional modifications) from a standard pre-marital questionnaire. I ended up liking most the material that was totally impromptu; the stuff that fell between what I officially asked her to do.

What's the story with those bells at the end?
Besides being out of tune, you mean? I got those bells in Kathmandu when I visited my sister there way back when she was in college. Therefore they remind me of her. Therefore I had to use them in this song. And they are very cool sonically.

What's up with the Heavy Duty power cell?!?!?
RHYTHM: It really has nothing at all to do with the Walgreen's battery that I was maligning for it's lack of performance. This little snippet was recorded at the same time as everything else and happened to lock in perfectly with the 120 bpm tempo of this song which is really quite remarkable considering it's not only how I said the words, but how my sister laughs after them. I tried countless other phrases, but none worked like this one. Also, it's kind of funny.

Is your sister's partner really lacking in personal hygiene?!
no! he is very clean.

Posted by halsey at 12:52 PM | Comments (2)

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)

June 25, 2004

arachnophobia

A Song To My Spider

Though I would love it if this song were on the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, alas, it is not. This is sort of a different kind of spider.
I recorded the narration sitting on this hill behind the Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale, CA last month. I was out there visiting my friend, a Yahoo! employee, and I was hanging out, reading and writing along with recording stuff, as I like to do.
It was a one take spontaneous sort of thing and that's exactly why I ended up liking it so much. I didn't know if I would use it for anything - had no plan whatsoever - but when I listened again later there was something about it that stuck with me. Something both dark and funny; poorly thought out yet engaging; bizarre though somehow easily identifiable. At least that is how I felt about it. You might feel differently. Let me know!

These will really help:

What use are cats if they can't even kill a spider?
good question

What do you use to record stuff in the field?
NOMAD Jukebox3 - it's an mp3 player and will record to wav and mp3 formats in various resolutions. With a pair of stereo binaural mics and a preamp, I can make some decent recordings. It's a little big to conveniently carry around in my pocket, but it quite transportable nonetheless. I wish the iPod would let me record.

I want my own spider. Where can I get one?
Chances are you already have a few(!) Just look harder...

Is it normal behavior to sing to a spider?
No

Posted by halsey at 09:17 AM | Comments (4)

June 10, 2004

fossiliferous

First of all, THANK YOU to those special people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were forced to record words for me. You formed the basis of this song. Please don't sue me; you won't get much!
I realize that I stand a chance of alienating the majority of my fanbase with this one as many of you might not like how your own voice sounds, but I'm feeling risky. And believe me, they all sound great, or I wouldn't have used them. I have lots of experience making less than stellar voices sound cool, as I'm sure you are aware.
I would recommend listening to this one on headphones if you can as there's a lot of stereo imaging going on that should make some of the parts more distinct.

Here goes the Q&A for 'was she wrong hungary yuck?':

Where did all those sounds come from?
All the clapping and slamming sounds were recorded up in Maine at the end of my dock. I was up there several weekends ago and one day was completely calm and slightly foggy. For some reason, these conditions seemed to lend themselves to amazing reverb/echo characteristics throughout the bay (if anyone understands the physics, let me know!). So I got out the portable recorder and recorded a bunch of sounds. I want to record my entire kit there sometime.

dock1_sm.JPG

Where did you get all those words?
They were graciously sent to me, unrequested, via email. I think some people call it SPAM.

How many audio tracks did you use for this song?
29

Who's that barking?

cirrus_dock_sm.JPG


What is this song about? It doesn't seem to hold together lyrically.
Aha! You figured me out. Given their source, these words, not surprisingly, mean absolutely nothing. Whether or not there is meaning in the song is something I am still trying to determine.

Are there any hidden messages?
Yes.

Posted by halsey at 10:28 AM | Comments (2)

May 26, 2004

beware of 1:14!!

Anger and I have had an interesting relationship over the years. It took us a very long time to get acquainted (25 years or so) and we are still sort of feeling each other out. We had a pretty significant run-in a few weeks back and this song resulted. I thought it was pretty cool that the energy from such an encounter on an otherwise wasted Tuesday evening became a song.
In some ways I am embarrassed by this song (no parking). Not because I think it is poor musically or particularly badly engineered or anything; but rather because I don't know if it is believable. You *should* believe it because it came from a place that was pure and direct, but I don't know if I was able to get this across in the song. And if it doesn't convince you, it might come across as pathetic and over-dramatized. How's that for self-confidence?
I guess I'm just not sure I fully achieved what I had hoped. Not sure if I am able to bring the listener into my world in that moment. And if I failed at this, there isn't much else to grab onto. So in that sense I suppose it's a little risky. But I figure letting you kind and benevolent listeners listen is the only way to find anything out, right?

So here is my little Q&A to kick things off. As always, ask your own if so inclined.

Is this finally a happy song?
No. In fact, not at all - as you may have gathered from the anger discussion above(!). This does not mean it isn't a positive song though.

What household object did you end up hitting?
I tried a bunch, but what I ended up using were the couch hit with timpani mallets and a spent snare drum head hit with marimba mallets. And a cat hit with...

Are there any swear words in this song?
Yes. Parental Advisory in full effect. As in: Kids, don't let your parents listen...

Was there really no parking?
Believe me; there was NONE.

Posted by halsey at 08:03 AM | Comments (3)

May 07, 2004

people feel, like ducks float

I have just finished another song, which is, in fact, part two of my Words and Voices project. I've had a hard time with this one for many reasons (some unknown), but I feel that it is at a point where I can share it with you. I fear it might be too obscure for anyone other than myself to like or be able to identify with. You'll have to let me know.
And I wanted to do an experiment of taking questions and comments in a more public forum than I have done in the past pre-aeblog. So listen to from us to me and ask me questions and make comments. I promise to answer them in one way or another.

Here are some from a secret source to get you going:

Who is that speaking?
I'm glad you asked that because this is important. The recording is of me interviewing my grandmother for a school project when I was 13. We were studying genealogy and my teacher (thank you Mr. Davenport!) required us to interview four family members with a set of questions he provided. After my grandmother died in 1989, I gave the tape to my mom.

There are so many words being spoken at the same time. I can't understand them all! What should I do?
Well, you could complain to me and if it seems like a consistent problem, perhaps I'll do something about it. Or you could listen multiple times and focus on a different line each time. Headphones helps as voices are spread out in the stereo field.

Why does it sound like you don't know how to play the piano?
Well, umm, I'm not glad you asked this question, but I said I'll answer anything. Truth be told, I do not have a clue how to play the piano, but I love the instrument and am lucky enough to have a Knabe baby grand at home. It's a great instrument for composing.

What is the deal with the ducks?
Another good question. Somehow ducks inhabit my subconscious. No follow-up questions allowed...

What's up with the melody at the end?
OK, no more giving stuff away.

Are you very, very well behaved?
less so every day.

Posted by halsey at 10:32 AM | Comments (3)

April 15, 2004

sneaky

This is the first piece for my Words and Voices project; it's called imposters of memory.
On a whim, the last time my parents visited me, I had them record several recitations of a few different poems that I had written. I didn't let them read anything beforehand. I liked the sound of the two of them speaking together and this song emerged.
I think they like being rock stars!

Posted by halsey at 01:36 PM