Friday, January 31, 2014

Collegiate Words


How powerful are words? That was the essence of the prompt we were to write about. We were given passages to read and had gone over different arguments in class. We were given deadlines and goals, and sent on our merry ways.

I read the passages and looked for some conclusion I could draw. I gathered evidence and started organizing. I started writing...I despaired. I couldn't find the words I needed.

Perhaps it was actually that my ideas were poorly developed and thus difficult to articulate, but I found myself spending as much time thinking about the shortcomings of language as I did thinking about developing my thesis and supporting it. Part of me was absolutely convinced that it didn't matter what I wrote--it would be misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood because there weren't words to convey what I wanted to convey.

I managed to finish my essay on time and got a good mark on it, but the revelations I had while writing still haunted me. Words aren't enough. At some point, words fail.

As someone who has always loved words, whether written on a page or spoken aloud or sung, these thoughts were terrifying. What's the point of writing if you can't communicate what you're trying to say because words fundamentally aren't capable of expressing what you want to say? Why am I writing songs if they aren't going to convey the messages I want them to? Why should I talk to people if they aren't going to understand my pain since there aren't words to describe how I am feeling? If words fail, what's the point of trying  to communicate with them?

And one day two things hit me. First, I had much to learn about language. Writing is not only about the words, but about how they are arranged and organized in sentences, in paragraphs, in essays, in stories, in poems. There is so much more to writing than vocabulary and if I wanted to accurately convey what I was feeling or what I meant, I would need to not only master the words but master how to use them. Discover the subtleties of timing and arrangement, literary devices and creative word choice.

But more striking to me was the second thought: When words fail, do. When words fail, sing. When words fail, dance. When words fail, bake. When words fail, smile. When there is nothing else that you can say, there is action. Though words are powerful, they are only labels that we have assigned to things, and there are so many things that we have not assigned labels to. But that does not mean that ideas, actions, emotions, colors, shapes, etc. that are currently unlabeled don't carry meaning or significance, and it certainly does not mean that they can't be conveyed. Words are wonderful tools, but they are not our only tools.

I think for me, that's part of the appeal of music. There are words, but there are also melodies, harmonies, timbres, timings, rhythms, performance. There are so many different ways to convey an idea or a feeling...And if music is not enough, there is dance. There are movements, steps, formations, facial expressions, costumes, lights. And if dance is not enough, there is....




Be bold.

R

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Battle with a Beast


Modern video editing is such unfamiliar terrain to me! However, after much struggle and strife, I am (rather clunkily) launching my video presence. (Seriously, though, who uses Illustrator and MATLAB to make titles????)

Is the video itself messy? Yes. Very. The beginning and ending plates are grossly pixelated. The edits are rough, sometimes a little off, and there are no transitions, just sharp cuts. Would I like it to be better? Smoother? More professional? Yes. Of course. But the truth is this: I am working with very rudimentary tools (did I mention MATLAB?) with no intuitive timeline-editing capabilities, no title-making applications, no effects.

After shooting all the shots I thought I needed (twice...), I went into Pro Tools to figure out how long I needed each shot to be and proceeded to cut my footage using the numbers I calculated. And even then, my editor was not particularly precise. It did, however, allow me to mix my audio track with my video track--a capability that I very much appreciated--though that, too, gave me results that were slightly off from what I was expecting...There was quite a bit of going back and re-cutting clips to better fit the music. And again, did I mention that all my video with text was created using an old version Illustrator and software I needed for an Electrical Engineering class?

But does all this mean that I shouldn't release this video? No. If I was a production company, I would have a very different answer, but I'm not a production company. I am a musician. A frugal musician, at that. And while we live in a world where content is sleek, flawless and hi-def, I am not sleek, flawless or hi-def. I am driven, bright and creative, and if that means sometimes I am also crude, rough and scrappy, so be it.

That doesn't mean that this video couldn't be better. It doesn't mean that I am satisfied with the titles or the editing. It doesn't mean that I am happy with my process. My next video is going to be better. I will make my titles look beautiful. I will come up with a smoother, more efficient process. But right now, this video has to be set free--a declaration of my intentions, a reminder of my vision, a pinprick of light in a pitch black room, and a record of where I started. And with it released, I can continue to work, improve and move forward.

So, watch and enjoy! (And let me know what your goals are! ;) )



And if you just want to listen to the song...


As always, thank you for your support! My video-editing skills will get better! 

Be bold.

R

Friday, January 24, 2014

Teenage Words

Please forgive my lack of posts. I was trying to produce a video for your viewing pleasure and discovered that technology was not working in my favor. I was hoping to release it Tuesday, but was unsuccessful. Then I hoped to release it today, but the process by which I am now doing things is not as speedy as I had hoped. But do not despair! A video is on it's way--it is coming! For now, though, there are always words.



Words saved my life. It wasn't that I didn't have friends or felt like an outcast. I had a group of very good friends and we would hang out during breaks and lunch, and successfully shelter each other from feeling like losers. It wasn't that my life was any more difficult than anyone else's. If anything, my life was probably more stable than most. It wasn't even the depression that settled in during my sophomore year and leached venom into my soul. I was never suicidal. There was too much to be done to be suicidal....But words saved my life.

Over the years, I had amassed a large collection of journals. Journals of all sizes and colors, various bindings and paper weights, with covers ranging from being plastered with 90's pop bands to being purple, furry and embroidered with unicorns. I had made many attempts at keeping a journal. Actually, I recently looked over what I had written in some of those bedazzled books and found many only sparsely used for entries of mundane nature. For the longest time, I thought the blank pages were supposed to be filled with each day's activities as a sort of log to be looked at in a hundred years and give some poor, probably very bored, soul a glimpse of what my life was like. But, in high school, that changed.

In high school, I started to get serious about songwriting. And when I got serious about songwriting, I realized I needed to get serious about my feelings. More than recording what I did, I needed to record how I felt. I needed to put my feelings in a form I could work with--a form I could review, analyze, return to, draw from--and, my goodness, there were a LOT of feelings.

The plight of the American teenager is pretty well-documented, so I will refrain from repeating, but know that I was not immune to it. I wrote about it. I vented it. I put it down in red ink in a journal with a vintage cereal mascot on its cover. Sometimes it helped immediately. More often than not, it didn't feel like it did very much. But it gave me a sort of ritual that I could do when things got emotional. It gave me a way to step back from my feelings, find patterns, find solutions, find...poetry--raging, rough, wild poetry that only comes out when you are not worried about making sense but lose if you don't write it down. And from this poetry I learned to find songs.

Words saved my life, because my veins pulse with poems and when my spirit bleeds, words clot the wounds and tell me how to heal. Words saved my life, because I could depend on them to be there when my friends went home and the world seemed to walk out on me. But most importantly, words saved my life, because they brought me life. They led me to my passion and they showed me that everything I needed to follow that passion was already within me.

Be bold.

R

Friday, January 17, 2014

Young Words

Not the stories that my dad read to me at night...

Every night my dad would tuck me into bed and read me whatever books I had pulled from the shelf. Silly stories, poetry, picture books, chapter books--all read to me in a voice so soothing that I sometimes had to fight it to get to the end of the story. If my interest in words started anywhere, it started there, in the half hour before bed, with the night light on its brightest setting and my dad sitting next to me entertaining while coaxing me to sleep with stories of clever police dogs, dancing mice, and big, bad pigs.

Periodically, we would stumble upon a new word and he would stop and ask, "Do you know what that means?" I would shake my head if I didn't know and he would give me a definition I could understand. To be honest, I can't really remember what words they were--there were a lot of them and I imagine they seemed much more sophisticated when I was five. Actually, I think "catastrophe" was one of them, but I can't be sure...Anyway, those words were like toys I could show off to my friends--signs of intellectual status and pompous know-it-all-ness.

But back then, it was magic. Squiggles on a page could hold words. Words could form stories. Stories could be brought to life by simply speaking them aloud. I don't think I thought of it exactly that way when I was younger, but I felt it. Each word I discovered and learned to decipher was like a new spell to cast or tool to use. Words were powerful, beautiful and mine if I decided to claim them....

...And I decided to claim them.

Be bold.

R

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Landing Gear


Back to the Basin, the bug bites, the beat...I hope the new year has been treating you well thus far--it has been treating me well. I got to spend some time back home and found my stay there quite rejuvenating. However, now I'm back and my head is spinning with what to do next.

Find gigs, shop labels, make videos, write songs. There is so much that I want to do and sometimes it feels like it's all spinning around me like a tornado in my head, or like a living room full of squeaky toys all begging to be played with at once...

How interesting. As I write this post I find my mind clearing. It strikes me that at this very moment, I need only follow one pursuit and let the others wait--they will be there after the first step is taken. Words can bring such sudden clarity.

So, with this revelation, I guess all I can say right now is that it's good to be back, stay tuned for new and exciting things, and thank you so much for listening and reading. I have to go and get things done now.

Be bold.

R