The Wheel Weaves (an Album?) as the Wheel Wills

*The following blog is about songs I have written or plan to write, but it is going to talk about some minor happenings in the Wheel of Time series written by Robert Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s passing.

It is not my intent to spoil you if you are planning to read the series. Nothing mentioned here will give away any plot spoilers, but will mention character names and possible relationships between characters. If you’ve read the first three books, you will know the people I mention. Since I like to focus on feelings rather than list off events, you should be able to read on even if you have yet to start the series.
I highly recommend that you do pick up these books.*
You probably know by now that I recently released a new EP. Reconstruction is an upbeat piano-based album that explores the themes of love and longing, childhood nostalgia, girl power, and keeping a positive outlook on life.

One of those songs, Make Him Mine,  is about a relationship in the Wheel of Time series from Elayne’s point of view.

As I was writing the song, I had ideas for other songs and I daydreamed of an entire WoT-themed album. Over the course of the fourteen books Rand encounters many people, but it is his relationships with all the extremely strong women that inspire me to get writing. They love him, they hate him, they fear him, and they treat him like a little child. It is so entertaining to read, and I have so many thoughts about how each woman’s song might sound. I love that in these books the men and women constantly talk about how they have no idea how to even begin to understand the opposite sex. It makes for great source material! Before I sent Reconstruction off to the printer, I even started on a song for a feisty older gal we meet in book 7.

I will keep you updated on how this project progresses. Right now I am still riding high on the excitement of my most recent album, but that itch to write more is always just beneath the surface. I’ve been jotting down lyrics here and there as inspiration strikes.

Random funny quote from the Wheel of Time Wikia page for the women of WoT: Women: “People who sniff, stare, smooth their skirts, and fold their arms under their breasts, and other stuff also, but mostly that.”

Yeah, that sounds like what one of the male characters would say!

Awesome trivia: there are 1,031 female characters in this series!!!!


A Wizard Rock Concert for Air Force Kids

I know I already posted all about this on Twitter and Facebook earlier today, but 140 characters (even if used several times) is not enough to convey how amazing my morning was.

I met a librarian a couple of months ago who works at two libraries here in town: one in Shreveport, and one at Barksdale Air Force Base. She invited me to do a Witherwings show at both locations. I was eager to perform at both libraries, but particularly excited about the show on base. I’m not sure how many Wizard Rock shows military kids get to attend, but I bet they are few and far between. I know these children move around the country every few years, and I know many have spent long periods of time with a parent over seas. I was yearning to do something fun for them.
When I arrived, I saw the round tables set up with white paper ties and piles of markers. A Harry Potter house tie coloring activity!? How perfect!
Then a packed school bus pulled up and a bunch of (I am estimating) 7-9 year olds got off and lined up neatly to come into the library. I was told it was a teen program, but I knew the kids from the Child Development Center were also coming over, so I planned my set to be for a young crowd.
From the beginning I knew I was going to be a fun audience. Nearly all raised their hands when I asked who had seen the Harry Potter movies, and nearly half raised their hands when I asked who had read the books. I started into the first song and got lots of smiles. After I finished “Be S.M.A.R.T,” a little girl to my left said she liked that song, and from that point forward, I had a little fan club of children at the two nearest tables who told me that they “loved that song” after each one I performed.
They clapped, they snapped, they got up and danced and they even flew around the room like Buckbeak. It was completely magical.
After the show I asked the kids closest to my keyboard to place their ties on the table so I could take a photo. Then they all wanted to be in the photo. I wish I could post those pics, but they are minors and their parents weren’t there to give permission. Trust me when I say they were wearing huge smiles.

 

Barksdale AFB library show. House ties!

A few moments later, one of my little fan club girls came up to me and said in the smallest, saddest voice that she didn’t get to be in the photo. So I offered to take a selfie with her. Then my other “I love this song” girls jumped in. It might be my favorite show photo of all time. These children were really just the best, most amazing kids!
As I was packing up my gear, a handful of girls hung out at my keyboard and asked me question after question.
“What is this?” Me: My set list.
“Why didn’t you do this song?” Me: The Tale of Tom Riddle is a bit scary. I cut it if there are little kids in the crowd.
A timid girl turns from a nearby table to say “My favorite part was when you said Buckbeak wouldn’t really eat Malfoy. That it was pretend.” (Uh… yikes. SO GLAD I said that!! O.o)
“Did you take piano lessons?” “For how long?” “How much did your keyboard cost?” “I think it was $267.” “I think it was $8000.” Me: Is this The Price Is Right? (BLANK STARES.) “Who does your hair?” “No I mean, what is the name of the place you go to?”
They were cracking me up.
Then they were told to form a line to get back on the school bus. The shy little girl who got the selfie with me ran up and hugged me.
As I rolled my amp out to the car, they all waved at me from the bus like I was a rock star. I sure felt like one. Hours later, and I still feel my heart could burst with joy. There is nothing as wonderful as an appreciative crowd, but young kids, as yet untouched by social pressures, who jump and dance and smile and laugh, THAT is the best audience I could ever dream of.

 

 


Acknowledgements for the Reconstruction EP

There were too many things to say to squeeze them onto a single insert page on a CD, so I am taking advantage of the space I have on this blog to list my acknowledgements and also to talk about the process of recording this album.

I will start with the acknowledgements to spare those who might not be interested in the technical details, though those details are cool, I swear!😉

  • This album would not exist if it were not for the help and patience of my dear husband, and for the most laid-back (and super fantastic, seriously solidly sleeping) baby.
  • I want to thank my musician father for his feedback on songs when I thought the auditory “vision” was going astray. I love that we have music and songwriting in common.
  • I appreciate the graphic design advice given to me by my step-dad. This was rather tricky since he is not connected to the Internet and I had to describe to him, over the phone, what I wanted to accomplish on the album cover. Luckily he is a great (retired) designer, as well as a musician, so he gets it.
  • I am ever so grateful to my friend Jen Boone for helping with the photo shoot for the album cover. She is the first friend I made when we recently moved to Louisiana and we’ve not known each other very long. However, she was quick to lend a hand when I wanted to drive to an unfamiliar area of town to do a series of self portraits in front of an abandoned building. The word “abandoned” inspired a “YOU WANT TO GO ALONE AND TAKE THE BABY WHERE?” when I told my husband what I wanted to do. Jen was happy to babysit during the shoot, and to give me feedback on when the wind was blowing my dress just right.🙂
  • And YOU. If you are reading this, it might be because you bought the album and saw the link to my blog. Thank you! Supporting musicians is what allows them to keep making more music.❤

Other liner notes:

  • “Dusk to Dawn” originally appeared on my 2010 album The Soundtrack to Your Demise. Because that album is very different from the rest of my music, I thought it might be nice to attempt a dreamy piano version of the rhythmic, beat-heavy, and synth-driven original. I’m really happy with the piano arrangement.
  • The song title, “The Medium,” refers to a concept in the Legends of Muirwood series by Jeff Wheeler. Though this song is in fact about that concept, it is also about my general spiritual beliefs.
  • “Make Him Mine” is directly inspired by The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (written by Robert Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s passing.) If you’ve read the first three (of 14) books, you know whose point of view I am taking. It’s not spoiler-y, just in case you are avoiding spoilers.

Now for the technical stuff:

  • I am so very pleased to say that this album was recorded using entirely open source (FREE) software. I used Ardour 3 as my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and used Yoshimi and Qsampler for my MIDI sound fonts. I ran all these programs using 64-bit Ubuntu Studio 13.10, a Linux-based operating system (again, all free.)
  • For the beautiful grand piano sound, I used the open source Maestro Concert Grand piano sound font provided by Mats Helgesson.
  • I did not have any guest musicians appear on this album. I like to think I am rather resourceful at getting my keyboard (via MIDI) to sound as much like other instruments as possible. I try not to push those boundaries too hard though; I am still a piano player at heart.
  • My keyboard, an old Casio Privia, has a huge selection of drum presets, and it is amazing what a lot of time, patience, and clever editing can do to make boring, repetitive drum tracks a whole lot more interesting. For the record, in hindsight, it may have taken the same amount of time to just hire someone to play drums and record them. I ran into a few snags that had me searching dozens of presets for just the right boom/crash combo with a cymbal that was not too long and not too short. Painful.
  • If you are still reading this, you may enjoy some of my previous blogs about setting up my studio and using MIDI in Ardour. I also wrote a post on the specs of Ardour (though my blog post was written for the previous version of Ardour, it is still good for the basics.)

 

 

 

 


Coming Soon!

Reconstruction: ComingSoon!

My new album!


A Look Into the Madness of a Mixing Musician?

Am I the only one who goes through tons of pieces of paper like this while mixing a CD? Am I just that OCD about it being as perfect as I can make it?

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New Music Update

I’ve been working on new music everyday while the kiddo naps. I’ve been writing, recording, and editing the mix, which takes the most time of all three. After a month and a half of doing this 5-6 days a week, 2 hours a day, my five new songs have these percentages of being complete: 99%, 97%, 70%, 40%, and 1% (1% = stream of consciousness lyrical ideas in my notebook.)

I’m aiming to have an EP of new songs ready for Cleveland ConCoction at the end of May. Though I’ve been working on stuff every day, and doing some serious time management (ie. writing lyrics while waiting for the baby to fall asleep)I still have so much to do!

I need to keep plug plug plugging along.🙂

 

 

 


Setting Up a Linux-Based Recording Studio (Chapter 3)

It’s been a while since I posted about recording in Ardour. Well, it’s been a while since I recorded, but I have been working on new music daily for the last month.

It took a couple of days, but I’m flying through all the connections at start-up now. (I use QSampler for my MIDI sound fonts in addition to analog instrument tracks.)

The reason for posting today though, is because it seems I have found my computer’s limit. She’s not a new machine, and she’s feeling the strain. It turns out that 15 tracks, of which 8 have one plug-in each, and one that has two plug-ins, are more than she can take. Playback is stuttering. It exports just fine, but when I go back to listen, make notes and edit, I have to mute or bypass the reverb on at least 5 tracks. Okay, so I like lots of harmonies. DON’T JUDGE ME.😉

Before recording in Ardour on a Linux computer, it was common for my songs to have 15-25 tracks on average. I really like a full, complex sound. The last CD I put out, and the first to be recorded on this computer in Ardour, was very basic: vocals, piano, drums and bass. I wanted the album to sound the way my songs sound when performed live. The songs had 5-6 tracks at the most, so I never even considered what my computer could handle.

Looks like there might be a hardware upgrade in my near future. I will keep you posted.


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