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!!!!

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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!


Help Me Determine My Next Music Video!

I am really pleased with my newest album “Momentarily Distracted” and would like to make a music video. I would LOVE YOUR HELP!

Of these three songs, which song would YOU most like to see a music video for?

This poll will be active for a month (until Sept 8th) but I could start on the video sooner if I see the results leaning dramatically in favor of one song.

*UPDATE* The poll is now closed. Here are the results:

Poll Results

Need to re-familiarize yourself with the songs? Here you go!

If you would like to purchase the album, just click on the bc logo on the right-hand side of the player! 🙂


In Which the Ringlords Interview Me

Saturday night I was honored to do a live chat interview with the Ringlords.™ We talked about music and books and music about books. From my first band, to my beginnings in wizard rock, to future projects (Wheel of Time rock!?!?!) we covered it all.

The Ringlords

Ringlords.™

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

{Please note that due to a bit of a lag, a few of the answers got separated from their questions. I put them back together here for ease of reading. I left nothing out and left all typos in place.}

Ringlords™: All ready to begin ?

Me: YESSSS! I see things now!

Me: You know, the page looked really weird. I thought it was becasue i was used to the phone app, but I think it was a freak alt-universe Ringlords page!

Me: Is this mic on? *tap tap tap*

Me: Hello hello?

Ringlords™: So, Mandala , Tell us a little about your new record

Me: I am really excited about a five-song EP I worked on at the end of last year called “Momentarily Distracted.” It is, in many ways, quite a departure from my other music projects.

Me: You can listen to it here! http://mandalasongs.bandcamp.com/

{Note: I am embedding a player here since a player appeared in the comment, though this shows only the first song}

Me: It has a very different feel from my other two projects: Witherwings and Mandala at Twilight. I basically get right to the heart of some very raw emotions with the lyrics and sparse musical arrangements. Piano and vocals dominate this album, with a couple of songs being backed by a classic trio of piano, drums and bass.

Ringlords™: very cool … we were amazed to see Vick Degiorgio listed on the credits … awesome musician

Me: He really is! He and I go way back! Let’s tag him.

Ringlords™: by wild coincidence Vick apparently knows Sue Martin who is friends with our Chicago crowd from waaay back

Me: Vick Degiorgio and I met in 2002. He was playing bass at a show for a friend of his and we got to talking when I was waiting to buy a CD. He invited me to his weekly music group and the rest is history.

Me: That history is that I performed in a band (that Vick was in) called SusieCool and the Coolotees from 2033-2009. This group of very experienced musicians took me under their wing to sing harmonies and ended up letting me sing lead on quite a few songs. They asked me to fill out the band right before they were to tape a poilet for a tv show that was to be an Orlando version of Austin City Limits. It never got picked up but it turned into some of the best years of my life. Before that performance they put me though “Crappy-Bar Boot Camp” where we played every dive in the city of Orlando 6 or seven nights a week (late into the night when I had to work the next day) until the taping of the show. They wanted to make sure I sounded, looked, and felt like I was a PART of the band and not the new girl. That was the best education I could have ever asked for as a musician and a performer. I earned my place on the stage, that’s for sure.

Me: Ha! I am not a time lord. 2003 NOT 2033.

Me: A name that might be more familiar to your followers though, is Russ Benoit. He played drums on two tracks on this album. You might know him as The Creevy Crisis.

Me: Gotta love the wrock family. I am so happy he played on the songs despite them NOT being wizard rock this time around.

Ringlords™: Yeah, Russ was working on a film, wasn’t he ?

Ringlords™: We understand that one of the songs on your new record has a literary background

Me: Lag…. gaaaahhh.

Me: Yeah, so though this is not a wrock album, or an album with a vampire lit theme, I could stray too far from my love of books!

Me: *couldn’t BIG DIFFERENCE

Ringlords™: Yes… for those of you unfamiliar with FB’s poor programming, anything that does not make them money is treated poorly

Me: “Wrong” is inspired by “The Taker” by Alma Katsu. It is the first of three books, but only the first two have been published. I was drawn to the horribly selfish deeds of the main character, Lanny. She falls in love with the boy in her town that all the girls are in love with. She does some pretty terrible things to try to make him hers. As the story goes on, she is made immortal and makes him immortal against his will to be with her forever. But he doesn’t want to be immortal. He does not love her with the same intensity that she loves him, and the big catch: only she can kill him – and he is begging her to. That is where the book begins… at the end, so to speak.

Me: What drew me to her and her situation is that, despite what sounds here like a very selfish character, is really a very complex woman who you come to sympathize with and like. It is a GREAT story. Oh and there is SO. MUCH. MORE. One word/character: Adair. Yeowza!

Ringlords™: You have quite the literary roots in your music … Tell us how you got into the wizarding sound …

Me: I attended a HP convention in 2007 I think. ANYONE? 2007? Called Phoenix Rising.

Me: It was not my first exposure to wizard rock, that was a Harry and the Potters concert the year before. But PR was the first time I thought that wrock might be for me. After returning home, and going on MySpace and seeing how supportive the community was, I really felt safe to try writing music on my own for the first time.

Me: Goggle confirms May 2007.

Me: I posted my first songs onto MySpace in October of 2007 and I have not stopped writing and performing!

Ringlords™: … and there’s was a clip we saw of you rocking with the Imperial Troopers

Ringlords™: Lessee if we can scare up the vid … hang on

Me: Ha! The Mandalorian Mercs!! They were so much fun. I love mixing with other fandoms. (I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, BTW.)

Me: I use a pic of that performance on my Witherwings band page.

Me:

 

Ringlords™: YES !! the very one !

Ringlords™: LOL! … very suave !

Ringlords™: Is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with that you haven’t tried ?

Me: I really love the Wheel of Time series, but my friend Pattie Beavensaid she would go postal if ever there was WoT Rock. I fear she might be serious so I have not attempted any. DON’T SPOIL THE LAST BOOK FOR ME ANYONE!!!

Ringlords™: Robert Jordan humm ? … we always wanted to see a band based on Heinlein … you should try something like that …

Me:  I’ve read a few Heinlein books… Other than Witherwings, I cannot see dedicating an entire album to one book or author. Books will always influence me though. as they do many musicians!

Ringlords™: So, where are you headed next ?

Me: I’m really just focused on now. I’ve got a new little baby here and he is keeping me quite busy. He loves music though so I can do shows. Lining up one for the Friedricksbrg VA area in the fall right now. Working on booking for 2014 as well.
I’ve worked on some new lyrics here and there but nothing polished.

Ringlords™: Ahh, bringing up baby … That’s gotta put the pressure on you … how do you handle juggling home and gigs?

Me: My husband helps me out a lot at shows. He is merch boy/Daddy extraordinaire!

Ringlords™: Do you get nervous before a performance ? & how do you handle a mistake when you are playing ?

Me: I do get nervous, but it is also a rush.
As for mistakes… Ha! I am like the story of George Washington announcing “I cannot tell a lie! I chopped down a cherry tree!” I usually announce it. “Whoops my bad!” “Whoa what was THAT!?” Luckily I’ve performed long enough that if I forgot the words, I am able to vamp and just keep playing until I can bring that part aroiund again and start over. Or I just make up words or sing about forgetting words. I don’t get upset about it. Unless I am trying to video the performance. But then again, there is a video of me forgetting the lyrics to “Malfoy” that I posted on Youtube. That was harder though because I was singing to an iPod. Then you cannot vamp. I just made fun of myself and started over. Let me find the video.

Me:

 
It comes about a minute in.

Ringlords™: How often and for how long do you practice?

Me: I really “cram” before a show.I get in ruts sometimes, and other times I regularly practice once a day. By that I mean spend time on music whether playing or writing. Baby has made that irregular though. Speaking of baby… sounds like I am needed…

Ringlords™: that’s our cue to wrap it up here … we want to thank Mandala for hanging out with us this evening and struggling through FB’s wony behaviors … be sure to pick up a copy of her new record at that Bandcamp link up above

Me: This has been really fun, guys! Thanks so much for having me and promoting the album. I am SO SO proud of it. $5 on b

Me: bandcamp

Me: Whoops! http://mandalasongs.bandcamp.com/

Me: Ha! Well i posted it again. 🙂 Thanks so much! Have a great weekend everyone!

Me: ❤

Ringlords™: And keep an eye on this page … we plan to bring you an interview with a certain author one of these days coming up


Incendio 2011

This past weekend was Incendio 2011, a two day wrock festival in Bethlehem, PA. I performed last year when it was just one jam-packed day, but this year, it was just too awesome to contain in a single day. I had an afternoon slot on Saturday, and though there is a magic to performing at night under the lights, I am happy to get a show done early enough to have time to relax and enjoy the other performers.

I would really have liked it if I had been able to get up to Pennsylvania for Friday’s performances as there were many really great acts scheduled, but alas, life intervened. Several of the bands hung around for both days though, so at least I got to visit with them a bit.

I am happy with how my set turned out. You never know when borrowing someone else’s instrument! I performed “The Tale of Tom Riddle” live for the first time. I was glad to add another song on piano to my repertoire, and it seemed to go over well.

I had a little stunt planned for this show and it could not have gone more smoothly. Recently, I was approached by a hop-hop wrock artist called Undesirable #1. He was interested in making a hip-hop remix of my song “Alone.” I only agreed to allow it if he added a rap to the song, and man, did it come out great.

Undesirable #1 performed the first day of the festival, but I knew he was sticking around, so I planned a super secret duet performance. I started out playing “Alone” on the piano as usual, but after the first chorus, U#1 very casually started up my ipod and I heard a gasp from the crowd. I felt like I was on the MTV Video Music Awards as I gestured stage right and said, “Undesirable Number Oooooonnneeeeee!” Richard took the stage and went full force into his rap. It was pretty awesome.

I want to give a HUGE thank you to Tina Wilkins who organized this event. The whole family is super amazing and supportive and I think the world of them. It was so great to see old friends, make a few new ones, and be inspired by some pretty fantastic musicians.

Here is a video of me performing “The Tale of Tom Riddle” shot by the always inspiring MaryBeth Schroeder: