Theres a First for Everything 1
'The last good thing written in C++ was the Pachelbel Canon.' -Jerry Olson The Canon In Me was the first track I created at the beginning of my first semester back in college. I just discovered the loops CD that came with my Audition 1.5 audio editing software. I have been using Audition for many years now, but I have never really used the loop CD because I just plain forgot I had it. I have recently gotten myself familiar with 'loops' over the past year. These are sound files that are pre-recorded by someone else, that I am allowed to use without paying a license fee. Most of the loops are very short in length, some of them are longer. At first, I used to only use loops for rhythm sounds for my music. But The Canon In Me is the first time I have ever created a song completely out of loops. Before, I had always performed *something*, even if was just my drum pad or my synthesizer. I had always thought that you needed to have some kind of performance come out of the track. But, because I am back in school, I have decided to make myself more open-minded and try things out even if I may think of them as being wrong or without use. I am in college to stretch myself creatively and become a seasoned, educated music artist. When I started arranging this track, I realized that using loops to create new, original songs -- that's an art much light a painter who chooses paint from a palette. It's an area in the world of song writing that has a unique and valid place. I chose to combine the orchestrated version of The Canon in D by Pachelbel with tribal beats because I wanted to exude what music in America has always been like. In fact, with most of my music, I try to include multiple cultural elements in songs. -------- Relaxation: 'In meditation, effort must be applied in a direction opposite to what we are used to. Our 'effort' must be to relax ever more deeply. We must ultimately release the tension from both our muscles and our thoughts. When we relax so deeply that we are able to internalize the energy of the senses, the mind becomes focused and a tremendous flow of energy is awakened. ... Meditation is a continuous process, and can be said to have three stages: relaxation, interiorization, and expansion.' -John Novak, Lessons in Meditation, p. 14 First in three meditative pieces, this track is an electronic rendition of an old nameless song I wrote many years ago. The main voice in the song belongs to the bells. The song is played once, then arranged in reverse, then played forward again. When I first started writing songs on my Yamaha PSR-340, in 1999, I usually wrote them using the vibraphone sound. It just felt so great to hear it on my headphones, surrounding my brain in all directions. The healing quality of the bell is like none other and it touches the very essence of childhood, that deepest realm of our lives. This song embraces that feeling and asks the listener to invest more than just casual listening. It asks the listener to imagine, to pretend and meditate. The ethnic guitar is purposefully and simply looped to give an emotional, personal feel. When added to the original melody of the song, it enhances the bells. I feel the sampled be-boxing vocals add a human, almost womb-like element to the song. It reinforces those feelings of peace and personal reflection. The synthetic bass makes the song feel urgent, alive and full of necessity. All these elements are combined to hopefully create a sense of the beginning stages of meditation. -------- Interiorization: to make interior; especially : to make a part of one's own inner being or mental structure. I would rather define self as the interiorization of community. -James Hillman, Maverick Psychologist One can tell that this song remains in a singular musical mode throughout. This should indicate that this is my second attempt at creating a song completely out of loops. I purposefully chose to make this song sound ominous and dark. I wanted to represent the feeling of interiorization. I think a lot of people see meditation as something light and good in nature. But I believe that meditation is much bigger than just one side of a circle. It is both light and heavy, both good and bad in nature. It is the act of reaching within. By using sounds of nature with organic ethnic instruments and various electronic drum patterns, I feel I was able to convey an adventure in meditation. If you listen closely, at the end of the track you can hear a great snoring going on. Perhaps one could look at this track as the journey back to sleep. A journey back home from the daily grind of day-to-day life. A life, which can sometimes be lonely and alienating in our post-modern world. ------- Expansion: Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each include the other, each is enriched by the other. -Felix Adler, Founder of the Ethical Culture movement The last in the series of meditation pieces, Meditation No. 3 explores sounds of machinery with orchestrated sounds of tension. It is the idea that one finally reaches an almost technological state of mind when meditating. As though one's individual machine begins to hum with regularity and divine syncopation. The track is most intense in the first half of the song, while the last half is mostly a slowly approaching ending. The very end of the song features a single piano loop, indicating that the process of meditation goes on and on and it never really ends. These musical tracks are just pictures of moments in time. --------- He who sings frightens away his ills. [Sp., Quien canta, sus males espanta.] - Cervantes (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra), Don Quixote (I, 22) Voices is my first major traditional choral work. Before, I had recorded a song that only had vocal sounds, Snowed In (with Paul Escalante), but there were only three phrases and they were arranged in loop fashion. This track actually features three and four voices, all performed individually throughout the song. None of the voices are looped. The chords are very complex in relation to the key signature and it took a lot of practice to get the tonality where I wanted it. I purposefully re-sampled the highest register of voices simply because I cannot reach those notes in all reality. This gives the track an ethereal feeling and that is why I chose to make the percussion dicey to a degree. I believe it emphasizes a feeling of going beyond what is physically possible. The song you hear was originally written as a piano piece that describes my major biking accident this fall. I couldn't really find a way to work it into anything until I came up with the idea to sing non-verbal lines. It is funny to me how music will be created in your head and then it will just wait until it's purpose becomes clear. I was inspired to record the track because I am a member of a 14 person a'capella choir. One of the singers arranged a couple of pages for one of the songs we're singing and I wanted to try and arrange something myself. This is the product of that effort. ------- 'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.' -Eleanor Roosevelt Little Speckles on the TV Screen was the first assignment in my Singer/Songwriter Ensemble at school. The class consists of about 12 students who write songs and then perform them for each other. We talk about the style and content of each song and sometimes explore additional revisions. Our teacher, Dr. Judith Coe, assigned us to write a song about 9/11. It could be any style, any way at all, but it should relate to 9/11. As we all know, 9/11 is a tough thing to think about, no matter what. Some people I have talked to have had a very 'head-in-the-sand' approach. They don't want to think about 9/11 and they don't feel like they should. 'It's just too much to deal with. It's over. I'm all 9/11'ed out.' That complacent attitude sends a shock of fear, straight down my spine. Immediately, I am reminded of the science-fiction book, 1984, by George Orwell, where all the truths about the world have diminished, and the heart of the world has almost died. To those people, I wrote this song. I wrote about the angels, those who died from the attack. I wondered if we were really honoring their deaths by being involved in war across the globe? You see, when I think of 9/11, I think of war. And I believe we should still be thinking about 9/11 because the war is not over yet. Young people are still being blown-up and the very Congress of our Nation is in great and heated debate about the integrity and necessity of continuing on as we have. And so, would those angels be shaking their heads and wringing their hands? I don't know how many times I have heard on the news that it isn't necessarily a matter of *if* there will be another terrorist attack, but *when* and *where.* Are we essentially gearing up for more devastation? I pray not, but I wonder: if we are staying in this war, are we not inviting more terror? And most importantly, where is the resolution in all of this? Can anyone 'see' it, set it, or accept it? Where is it? A fatalist would say that the resolution is behind us and this is the last age. But that's pretty dramatic, if you ask me. Ha ha. These are the things I think about when I think about 9/11. I tried my best to demonstrate that through the lyrics of this song. Little Speckles on the TV Screen Music & Lyrics by John Paul Sharp Verse 1: What do you remember from That fateful day of death and doom? I remember bodies falling from the sky Like tears of blue. Chorus: Did you see it? Little Speckles On the TV Screen? Are the Spirits of the Towers -- Are they wondering -- Verse 2: Why we never seemed to learn? A thing of hope and fear of amends. Looking down from heaven, Are they shaking heads and wringing hands? Chorus: Getting ready For another Major hate attack? It's no matter If it happens again, But when it comes Bridge: Back to haunt us. Back to haunt us. Back to haunt us again. Chorus: What's your problem? Don't just sit there, Get up on your feet! See the problem? Let's go protest! Get out on the streets! Verse 3: When will we learn that war is wrong? This global home of ours is sacred. I'd have never dreamed that I would Live in such a world of complacence. ------- '... of the sea, Gilgamesh ... on walking onward, raised his eyes and saw ...' -Tablet IX, The Epic of Gilgamesh One time, in my Singer/Songwriter class, we were asked to reflect upon various clichés. I wrote a reflection on a cliché that I offered to add to the list: Don't Get Me Down. Recently, in the past couple of months, I dislocated my shoulder. Suddenly, I wasn't able to ride my bike an hour a day like I had always been doing. I had to learn how to take the bus around the city. I had to see what my life would be like if I were permanently disabled. I never stopped working and I only missed one day of classes. (The only day out of the entire semester!) Even though my life barely slowed down after the accident, it did slow down enough for me to start watching a lot more television than I am used to. I watched a lot of MSNBC. It was during the times of Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma and the beginning of the Avian Flu. It was also during the time when Tom DeLay was being indicted and Scooter Libby was beginning to be investigated. It was also the time, which is all the time, when children were being stolen right from their beds and murdered by sexual predators. All these news stories overwhelmed me. I asked myself, what is happening? I was reminded of the Flood Legends that exist in the human age. They say that the oldest story ever told is The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Sumerian times. In this story, all the people in the world have acted so badly that the creator of the world decided to 'start over' and flood and drown all the evil people, leaving only the seed of every species to survive. It is a story of devastation and retribution, but it is also a story of hope and renewal. It teaches us that we must be grateful for what we already have in life so that we can live right and do good things. If there is anything positive that can come from all these terrible hurricanes, that is the message I think is best. That is what I tried to convey in this song: Oldest Story Ever Told: Music & Lyrics by John Paul Sharp Verse 1: Children stolen from their beds Yes the Boogeyman exists Politicians lie and steal Even when it means to kill Verse 2: Flu that flies on wings of bloody birds News that sucks you in with sexy words There's no sign when things will end All the signs that things will end Chorus: So when that hurricane makes landfall, Let it wash all our sins away So when that hurricane makes landfall, Let it wash all our sins away Verse 3: God will take the seed of creatures all Put them on a ship and close the door We will start again some how But that's all She wrote for now Verse 4: Someday this old place is gonna' drown All the way to Boulder, Colorado The oldest story ever told Possibly might be our last Chorus: So when that hurricane makes landfall, Let it wash all our sins away So when that hurricane makes landfall, Let it wash all our sins away And to God give our thanks today ------ How strange when an illusion dies. It's as though you've lost a child. -Judy Garland Home Again marks the beginning of a week-long flood of creativity where I wrote and recorded the last four songs. This was also the last assignment in my Singer/Songwriter ensemble. We were asked to write a song about a favorite piece of literature. After much deliberating, I finally decided to choose Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz, in particular, between the second-to-last chapter of the book and the last chapter of the book. It is the time between when Dorothy is leaving Oz and returning to Kansas. What would it have been like for a little girl in Kansas? After doing some research and re-reading the children's book, I realized that Dorothy's life was pretty destitute and lonely. Her Aunt Em's faced was weathered from the harsh Kansas landscape and she cried a lot. Her Uncle Henry never said much, and I can bet you it was because he was probably upset that he didn't have a young boy running around the farm, doing chores. Dorothy was an orphan and she had no real connection to other human beings. All she really had was her dog, Toto. She was a terribly lonely little girl who dreamed of finding love from others. This was not much unlike the life of Judy Garland, who eventually played the little girl on the big screen in Hollywood several decades ago. She was always battling with the illusion and reality of life and often talked about how she would rather have one person who loved her rather than thousands of fans cheering her on. I recently started a chapter of GenderYOUTH, a division of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition. During the weekend when I wrote this song, I also learned a lot about gender activism. I was also writing a research paper about how gender roles are stereotyped by the mass-media. This was my inspiration behind creating a separate identity in writing and singing this song. From Dorothy's perspective, I was able to tell the story of what might have been going through her head as she left her world of illusion behind. In my mind, she became a young woman, leaving her real child-hood behind. She evaluated her experiences and as you can gather from listening to the song, no answers were really given. Just a hope and a prayer. Home Again: Music & Lyrics by John Paul Sharp Guess it's time to go Just want you to know So glad to have been There for you Will they look at me As a little thing Will they see me as I am? Something bigger than before? I can barely Keep from cryin' My full hear out Something's gotta give When I am Home Again What will it be like In a place called Kansas? In this small balloon You are quickly vanishing I will close my eyes And hold my breath ... Lift my heels and Click, click, click three times Tell myself it'll be just fine Tell myself there's no place Tell myself there's no place Like home ... Then I think of just what might be Be in store for a girl like me Shut my mouth and do as I'm told Oh my gosh, I really don't know If I can be Alone again With no friends 'Cept a dog named Toto ... What's that, that I see? Feels like I am falling Seems like it will be Hard to land I can almost see Aunt Em secretly Weeping, not for little me But crying for the life that she Never really had And Uncle Henry Always so angry Telling me how to act And what I should be like Not a little boy like He was when he was my age Maybe if I hope and pray I can be the girl and boy he wanted For I've sung with a lion And I've dance with the tinman I have traveled with a scarecrow And I've saved their lives So many times, don't you know? I see the player piano as the grandfather of the computer, the ancestor of the entire nightmare we live in, the birth of the binary world where there is no option other than yes or no and where there is no refuge. -William Gaddis, American Novelist & Humorist ------- Watch a cat when it enters a room for the first time. It searches and smells about, it is not quiet for a moment, it trusts nothing until it has examined and made acquaintance with everything. --Jean Jacques Rousseau, Swiss philosopher, writer, political theorist, and self-taught composer of The Age of Enlightenment This is a song that I wrote one of my cats, Leighlia. She has a very mysterious and foreboding personality but she is also very calm and an old soul. The actual song played by the guitar is something I wrote several years ago, a piano piece called 'The Apology.' The vocals are new and the lyrics were written in one night as I recorded vocals. It was spur of the moment and it all happened very quickly. I worked on the song from start to finish for about 4 hours. It has been my hope and wish to re-record this song. I love the old recording but it is of lower quality and this version has updated instruments, a richer arrangement and, of course, vocals. This is not the first time I have written a song about cats, but this is the first love song I have ever written for a cat, so I think that counts as a first! Leighlia Music, Vocals & Lyrics by John Paul Sharp Here comes Leighlia Here comes Leighlia Here comes Leighlia Chorus: She won't mind Take her time She's just fine Ohhhh Sweet and slow She ain't up for nothin' If she goes, She goes out for something Ahhhh, Ohhhh Leighlia is here Leighlia is here Leighlia is here And here is Leighlia. Ahhhh Leighlia Ooooooo Ohhhhhhh (Repeat Chorus) When I first laid eyes upon her Oh, I felt so honored To be the luckiest guy to ever be with Leighlia. Leighlia Ahhhhhh Oooooooooooooo (Repeat Chorus) ---- The last track in my first volume of music created while I am getting my education in college. I was just playing around with loops again on Sony's AcidPro audio editing software. This program emphasizes use of loops over recording voice. I decided that I wanted to try and incorporate both Adobe's Audition 1.5 software with AcidPro. So, I first laid down some loops. I used a simple repetition of a rag-time piano phrase and added additional elements that are not normally associated with it. For example, I added electric guitars, an extremely heavy rock drum beat and a jazzy organ sample. I kept switching the instrumentation up every verse because the format of the song is A, A, A, A and it is important to keep the music exciting when that much repetition goes on. When I finished laying down the loops, I took the result and opened it up in the Audition software and I began to write and record lyrics and vocals. I knew I wanted to keep the melody simple and I wanted to have a lot of fun with it. I'd like to say that Nina Simone was my inspiration behind the singing and I purposely kept the vocals loose and sometimes straight-out flat. The reason for this is because I feel that variations in tone can some times provide an emotional atmosphere that enhances the feeling of the overall song. Many people are not used to this. Our radio and commercial music industry has a specific standards that do not normally allow for this kind of attitude. However, while people may not be accustomed to this, many have already sent me personal messages telling me what a great song they think it is and how much fun they had when they were listening to it. all i want is you Music, Vocals & Lyrics by John Paul Sharp (player piano starts) Seems like time flies when all your worries have begun to fall upon themselves. Well, I've been workin' for my baby and I'm workin' just as hard as hell. This little break can't come any sooner, I've been counting up the days until I'll be restin' with my baby And my baby's gonna' be my thrill. Well, if it pleases the house, perhaps you won't mind if I -- Take these tears and throw 'em in a bucket 'cause I just don't give a Fundamental Care For the time is coming closer to another step to close the deal. Let's get real; we all want the same things in life, if you please. And we've been searchin' for eternity and only death provides the mean. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you -- The machine, the machine, the machine Daily grind of life that tries to keep us from our nightly dreams. And I've been dreamin' of my baby and my baby's been a'dreamin' of me. I'm clockin' out! But only for a moment so I get the time to check out the view. When I see my baby walkin' and I think that all I want is you Well, all I want, all I've ever wanted ... All I've wanted is you All I've wanted is you All I want is you All I want is you.