craigslist adventures

•April 19, 2009 • 7 Comments

I’ve been house and cat sitting for some friends in San Diego, so I was pretty much left to my own devices for the weekend. Not really knowing anyone, I made some friends online, signed up to do some volunteer work and let the the universe send me what it may.

I met a screenwriter and ex-street performer who turned out to be a very kindred spirit. We walked along Mission Beach wading in the Pacific, talking about writing and art and living the good life. Later we jumped around in the waves, bonded over our love for dancing (we’re both lindy hoppers) and talked about missing the French language since moving to an Anglophone community. So many beautiful moments.

Saturday morning I volunteered for a few hours at the Little Italy Farmer’s Market, instructing pedestrians to cross the street at the corners so traffic could still move more or less freely. It was a sunny day with fantastic people-watching, I ate a delicious crepe and then picked up some fruit and juice with coupons they give the volunteers as a little thank-you token.

I think I’m going to make a point to do volunteer work in the cities I find myself in from now on. It’s such a rewarding way to meet people and give back when you don’t know anyone or have a lot of money.

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I also went sailing with another new friend and his pet iguana, which was also wonderful. It was a relaxing sail with mostly modest winds, good conversation and a few stops at various beaches along the way. Lexie the iguana clearly enjoyed the fresh air and the thrill of being on the water. I couldn’t agree more.

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I’m sunburnt as hell and totally exhausted but I figure I can sleep when I get back to Toronto. Jasmine and Scott get back today and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. In the meantime, I am working on mixing the tracks we got completed and taking a nap.

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the scoop

•April 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

We got most of the piano tracks and a couple vocals recorded, but Charlie and I both decided it was best if I take some time away from East Jesus for awhile. It’s sad but I think I’ll be back before too long. Charlie is such a dear friend and I’ve got a few more nights at the Range in me yet.

I’ve been staying with some friends in San Diego and it’s been great to spend some time with some of my favorite people that I rarely get to see. Jasmine and I went to Balboa Park the other day and played a new game of frisbee we invented that sort of combines contemporary dance and well… frisbee. We were too busy being ridiculous to take any candid photos but we did do some re-enacting in the parking lot before taking off.

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The dramatic leap.

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The serious throw.

If you like silliness and frisbee then I seriously recommend it. Afterward this tough looking dude came up and asked me about this weird throw I was doing and we were pretty sure he was inquiring about one of our goofy throws, but it turns out it was he was asking about an actual frisbee throw. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve giggled that much in awhile.

In other news, I turned 25 recently. It was a low-key birthday, and truth be told I was a touch homesick. But we drank champagne at lunch, listened to Tristan and Isolde and an hour of John Cage and David Tudor, and later there was a strange journey into outer space. The desert is kind of magical like that.

I discovered this morning to my surprise that I’d brought books by James Joyce and Herman Hesse in a secret compartment in my backpack and now I’m not so concerned about finishing up Joseph Campbell before my flight.

Anyone driving to El Centro on April 20 or early on the 21st?

recording vocals

•April 4, 2009 • 2 Comments

Yesterday it was too windy to do any piano recording, so we went into the container and did some vocal tracks. Because all of Charlie’s batteries and power stuff are kept in there, we had to turn off the solar panels and the wind turbine while we were working, though fortunately we were pretty charged up when we started so we didn’t run out juice.

We nailed two songs, and man, it was a lot of work. But fun! My voice was mega-tired at the end of the day and I nearly passed out while Charlie was reading me a story around 9:30pm.

It is SO GOOD to work with someone who’s vision and taste I trust though. We did one song singing the entire thing super close to a Rode NT2000 and almost whisper-singing, then over again with an SM-58. You would think that singing quietly like that would be easy to do, but it actually takes an enormous amount of control and concentration. The effect is pretty neat though. I feel pretty lucky that I’m not going through this process alone and I have someone here who can help me bring out new energies and ideas to the material.

The wind is still blowing pretty hard but it’s supposed to die down this morning, so back to piano today. We are hoping to get at least two piano tracks down today and one vocal (two if we’re lucky!). We can’t do touch-up tuning until the temperature rises a bit though, so I’m off to make some scratch tracks to use as a guide when the tune has lots of sustained notes and piano cues that come from the vocals, instead of the other way around.

dismantling a grand piano

•April 2, 2009 • 2 Comments

Two days ago we took the action out of the piano to do some final restoration, at least until this project is over. Man, pianos are marvelous instruments. I’ve included a diagram Charlie’s from manual and some photos of the dismantled piano. We didn’t do any fancy changes, mostly sanding down the hammers and centering them so that they hit all three strings. Charlie also used his air compressor to dust out the innards of the piano while the action was out. I’m more like an assistant in all of this, but it’s an incredible process to take part in. Now, after a final tune-up, we’re actually recording and have started laying down the piano tracks. It feels soooo good to be getting something tangible done on this project and I’m mega relieved.

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Yay!

Also, upload speed is slower than mollasses out here so sometimes I’m a little behind on the photo posts. There has been heaps going on though and I’ll be writing more soon!

earthquake

•March 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Last night I woke up and it was dark and my trailer was shaking. The dog wasn’t barking, I couldn’t hear any strange noises, and there were no weird energies in the air. I was puzzled more than anything. I thought about shouting to Charlie in the next trailer, but figured I’d give it a chance to stop first.

When I woke up this morning, I checked online if there were any earthquakes in southern California, and it turns out there were! I’ve never felt an earthquake before and I gotta say it’s a pretty weird feeling. I kind of wish I’d gone outside so I could have felt the ground shaking rather than my dwelling, just to have the full experience.

No wind today, finally! I have been practicing like a madwoman, despite the dust and blowiness, but now we can finally get down and dirty with the piano. We will probably have to take out the action and scouer down the bass strings before it sounds up to its potential. Fortunately we are prepared to do these things.

burning of the bunny king

•March 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

They were forecasting heavy winds in Niland for this weekend, so Charlie and I decided to jump ship and head out to an even more remote location sort of near Barstow, CA for a camping party with a bunch of burners. After getting lost about six times, we arrived, and Charlie went about setting up the sound system with the electric piano, two vocals mics and a guitar, while I went and helped build a giant wooden bunny. Later we jammed out a bunch of Bonnie Prince Billy songs, as well as the usual Leonard Cohen, and Charlie backed me up on some of my originals.

We were camped out on a dried up lake bed, and the sound traveled beautifully into the night. Singing songs from Bonnie Prince Billy’s “The Letting Go”, we fell back into that usual space where nothing exists but the music and you sort of ride it and let it take you somewhere you didn’t expect to go. I played “Will O Wisp” lit up by the glow of a fire, and “Up Like The Dirt”, thinking about Tara, who wrote the lyrics to the song about the desert in New Mexico long before I’d experienced a landscape even remotely close to this. I met some great people, watched some stuff burn and walked up a big rocky hillside where we could watch the whole thing unfold.

On another note, the sound setup is AWESOME. This was kind of a test run, and now we know we can go busking anywhere, and may even take a couple of trips down to Venice Beach to play some tunes at some point in the future. We returned this afternoon to find the winds have not quite died down yet, but we are hoping the weather will be a little more cooperative tomorrow.

Thank you again to everyone with the pre-orders! It is so amazing and wonderful that you are helping make this happen. I feel totally blessed to have such a strong support network and you guys totally rock my world.

piano tuning troubles

•March 18, 2009 • 2 Comments

The piano tuning process has turned out to be more complicated than we imagined, and we’ve hit a bit of a snag. Each morning so far it has become out of tune overnight, and the bass strings are so heavily oxidized that there are funky overtones on every one, that even the tuner cannot discern if the note is sharp or flat. So yeah, bad news. But given that it hasn’t been tuned in such a long time and that it’s undergoing a drastic change in climate, we are hoping that all this is just an adjustment period and it will even out with time.

Today the temperature hit 87°F (that’s about 30°C) and it was not possible to tune, or really to play either. We are realizing that we’re going to have to do the piano tracks in the mornings and evenings and do vocals in the afternoons. Hopefully the higher temperatures won’t bother the piano too much. Tomorrow Charlie and Segolene have to go to town to do a bunch of stuff so I’m going to man the fort here and take some time to rock out with no one else around. It’ll be nice to have a bit of time to myself to get in the zone.

Besides that everything is as it should be. The temperature change is affecting me physiologically but I’m pretty sure I’ll get over it quickly. This dry heat is something kind of new to me, especially since I was pretty acclimatized to winter before I came here. I haven’t been sleeping nearly enough, but it’s looking like tonight will be an early one. I tend to wake up ridiculously early even when I go to bed late so it’s nice to crash before too late if I can.