Category: electronic music

Christmas message from a hapless scribbler

The Many Names of God

I like Philip K. Dick’s term:  Vast Active Living Intelligence System (VALIS).  At least it gives some kind of scale to the forces we are talking about.  Divine powers of creation that can birth galactic super-clusters and knit it all together with a physics so neat and concise it can very nearly be reduced to an equation.  A few numbers and letters that denote paradigm shifts.

Some religions and belief systems hedge around the naming or depiction of their gods and/or lords of creation. Superstition…or an acute understanding of the power of words?  The periodic table, after all, nothing more than rows of nonsensical letters that, when properly arranged, become us.

Lapse (III) (Free ambient music)

Pursuing the Ideal Reader

Another birthday rolling around, my 48th, and, natch, the critical, self-regarding mind casts its gaze backward, forward, hither and yon, seeking a pattern, a design, some semblance of order.

Usually in vain.

I’ve described my writing “career” as something of a train wreck and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.  I lurch from project to project, with absolutely no conception of how to “market” or promote myself, zero interest in shilling for my work, peddling it around like an itinerant vacuum cleaner salesman.  My writing doesn’t comfortably fit any niche, veering from genre to genre, encompassing everything from radio plays, to short films, ambient music and spoken word pieces.  My last two novels were supernatural thrillers, my latest is an old fashioned western.  Huh?

But that’s the glorious thing about the new technologies that have sprouted up in the past few years. They allow creative types to try their hand at a variety of disciplines, expressing themselves through different media.  I don’t discriminate between my various projects, no matter what form they take.  They all reflect my interests, fears, fixations and dreams.  They all originate in the labyrinthine depths of my mind.

* * * * * *

Thanks to one and all who have stuck it out thus far.  Popped in to this site for a quick look…and then lingered, read more and more of the entries, downloaded big swathes of my writing or tuned in to some of the weird music I’ve made available for free listening and downloading.

Through this blog I’ve become familiar with good folks and sharp thinkers.  Thoughtful, intelligent people who love the printed word as much as I do.

And I believe that somewhere among the tens of thousands of curious types who’ve visited this blog in the past 4 1/2 years there is at least one ideal reader, someone who has followed my career, read the lion’s share of my oeuvre and eagerly looks forward to each new release.  That’s the gal/guy who brings me back to my desk, morning after morning, my raison d’être, my secret admirer, number one fan and staunchest defender.  Every day I sit down and create purely for the purpose of entertaining, surprising and intriguing my I.R., presenting them with a narrative or tune or spoken word piece that startles them and causes them to re-appraise my work (yet again), examining it in a wholly different light.

I am prepared to go to any extent to unsettle and shake up my Ideal Reader.  I don’t want them getting complacent, taking me for granted.  For that reason, my work must never fall back on tried and true formulas or reinforce commonly held beliefs and preconceptions.

I have to to believe my I.R. would be very disappointed in me if I resorted to such tactics.

My Ideal Reader is as courageous and aesthetically demanding as I am.

And they’d know if I wasn’t giving them my best work…

* * * * * *

It’s become something of a custom for me to either release new work or make some kind of announcement around my birthday.

First, please note to “self-portrait” that accompanies this post.  A couple of Christmases ago, Sherron and my sons gifted me with a big fat scrapbook that I was supposed to play with; included among my tasks was executing a self-portrait on canvas.  Last month I finally got around to it and, well, see for yourself.  I have absolutely no acumen for visual art, couldn’t even figure out how to mix pigments—that’s why my picture is in black and white.

Okay, so I’m no threat to Vinnie van Gogh.

How about another strange, spacey, ambient tune, created a couple of days ago.  “Lapse (II)” clocks in at over seven minutes and I think it’s a worthy addition to my odd musical catalog.

Play…Lapse (II)

And, finally, a couple of updates:

Edits on my western, The Last Hunt, commence soon.  Looking forward to knocking that little beauty into shape.  Anticipating a March, 2012 release date.  I’ll keep you posted.

My science fiction novelette, “Eyes in the Sky“, should be up on Amazon/Kindle in the coming days.  It’s dedicated to “the Golden Age” and I think fans of the genre will understand what I mean.

No plans for my birthday, just another work day.  Forty-eight years old and maybe a tad wiser.  Still a long way to go and enlightenment continues to tease and then elude me.  Every time I think I’m getting close to some kind of meaningful insight into the human experience, something truly ghastly and horrific happens and I am forcefully reminded of the Alain Finkielkraut quote:

“Barbarism is not the inheritance of our pre-history.  It is the companion that dogs our every step.”

Amen.

“Beautiful Desolation”: The Movie

My new short film is finished and up on YouTube.

This project began as a musical piece which turned out so well, I decided it might make a strange and unsettling soundtrack for an original movie.  Sherron and I shot footage over two days and then loaded the images from our two cameras on to iMovie (a process rendered extremely difficult because of the age of my DV camera).  I commenced editing, spending many long hours shaping the footage to the music, even concocting a kind of/sort of narrative.

You can view the film here and then, I hope, either drop a comment on my blog or over at YouTube:

I won’t try to summarize or explain “Beautiful Desolation” except to say that even on a planet that now boasts over six billion souls, there are still places where one can gain a profound impression of isolation, neglect, Nature reclaiming her own.

Enjoy the movie and I hope it inspires some thought and reflection. Perhaps it will cause you to contemplate the place where you live and view it in an entirely different light.

On location–shooting a short film

Here are a few snaps of your humble author, hard at work shooting footage “on location” as it were.  An overgrown lot in small town Saskatchewan, old farm buildings that we spotted alongside the highway.  Whenever we identified something that might fit our overall concept of “abandonment and desolation”, we’d pull over and do our thing.

I handled a DV camera we bought off the internet a number of years ago.  Very creaky, the technology practically obsolete.  I can still find tapes for it at places like London Drugs in Saskatoon but I wonder how long that will be the case.

Sherron, meanwhile, was using her iPod, employing a number of settings and filters to grab some neat effects.  We’ll load all the footage onto my computer and I’ll get to work trying to compose something out of what we’ve compiled.

The reason for this flurry of cinematic activity is that I’ve created a delightful seven and a half minute piece with Garageband and it’s so evocative and interesting to me that I thought it deserved some visual accompaniment.

If anything comes of this grand experiment, I will, of course, add it to the blog for your perusal and analysis.

Many thanks to Sherron for her collaboration and input.  It’s a thrill to work with someone as creative and visually attuned as she is.  I’m quite confident her footage will be the best we shoot—the combination of my ancient camera and ineptitude pretty much works against my ever becoming a proficient DP (director of photography).

I’d better get back to work.

Happy Labour Day to my fellow Canucks…and I dearly hope the Saskatchewan Roughriders get their asses kicked later today.

God, I hate that team and its moronic, watery-brained fans…

“The Midnight Detective” (Spoken Word)

Couldn’t get into serious writing yesterday–still catching up on research on my western novel, The Last Hunt, and I’m not yet at the point where I can begin to tackle necessary revisions.

My science fiction story needs one final polish/run through before I send it off.  I’ll likely get that done today.

And so…yesterday.

Decided to create a little something with Garageband.  The first effort wasn’t very good but the second tune had promise (as soundtrack music for the creepiest film ever made maybe) and then came the third number…

Well.  I didn’t really set out to create a spoken word bit, but that’s how it came out.  I was poking around my notebook and came across a series of phrases that, if you put them together, would almost make a kind of narrative…

I plugged in the microphone and gave it a shot.  The very first vocal track was perfect and then I started building and shaping music around it.

The end result is “The Midnight Detective”, a 2 1/2 minute effort that plays around with noirish conceits and comes together for a rather tasty finale.

This piece should work on whatever audio player your computer employs (if it’s fairly new) and, of course, you’re free to download it and share it with pals and like-minded folks who might get a charge out of my whacked out, postmodern detective.

You’ll find more of my musical noodling and spoken word efforts on my Audio page.

Click here to listen to Midnight Detective

* This post is dedicated to Caroline Ames–Happy Birthday, kid.

“Tomorrowday” (more free ambient music)

More music-making…started this afternoon and just played the finished tune to my son, Sam, who gave it passing marks for sheer weirdness.

For those of you who want to see a complete listing of my ambient and spoken word offerings, go to my Audio page.

And now, my latest musical offering, clocking in at just over two minutes:

Click here:  Tomorrowday

National Poetry Month III: New poems & an ambient tune

A few more poems, to close out National Poetry Month.  Dunno what led to this surge of verse of late—it’s not what I’m supposed to be writing, I’ll tell you that.

Ah, well, as previously reported, my muse can be pretty fickle and strange.

And just to prove that’s the case, I’ve added another recent ambient effort, one I’m very taken with, titled “String Theory”.  Bizarro space music and incomprehensible poetry…good grief.  Well, maybe now that Spring has returned to these parts I’ll feel compelled to get back to my real work, a project I shall elaborate on soon, very soon.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy today’s little treats:

Morris Ankrum


you could see the wires

stars hung off-kilter

Earth just a rubber ball

a funny shadow where

someone lurked, just out of frame

* * * * *

Those Of Us


who dream in slow motion

and have leaky prostates

and try so fucking hard

and who succeed, often in spite of themselves

and have no mother or father

and who must combat fear and depression

and who find ourselves inexplicably loved

and who are thankful for each blessed moment

and who know someday it must end

* * * * *

Foley Operator


You could hear birdsong

incongruous, but it was there

ambient chatter

shrill commentary

from the safety of the trees

* * * * *

Typecasting


I am tired of my role as resident cynic

the last angry man

critic of all he surveys

offering contempt in lieu of solutions

shouldering my burden of shame

well-versed on the subject of sin

while passionately opposing any notion of free will

* * * * *

And, finally, a few more minutes of music, a soundscape courtesy yours truly.  Here’s a thought:  play this while you’re reading the poetry—and let me know how the experiment goes.

Just click here:  String Theory

A statement of policy…and some new music

A brief post this time around, lots on my plate and not a whole lotta time for blogging.

Recently I received a couple of notes from folks who took issue with my comments re: the arrogance and stupidity of amateur/wannabe writers.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, these individuals chose to hide behind silly aliases so they could spout their venom with impunity and congratulate themselves for their courage.

After a close encounter with a nasty little troll a couple of years ago, I decided not to publish remarks from folks who lack the guts to use their real names, accompanied by a valid e-mail address. Say what you want about me kiddies, call me “arrogant”, “elitist”, an “incorrigible asshole”, at least I never hide behind a nom de plume when putting forward my point of view.  I have a “Moderate” function on this blog and I use it, not to screen out folks who have differing points of view, but to exclude those who are  1) psychos or 2) chickenshit or 3) abusive to other respondents. Follow the rules and your comments, pro and con, make the cut.

In the four years I’ve had this blog I’ve been thrilled (for the most part) by the quality of discourse and the clever, articulate people who pop in to see what I’m up to.  You’re welcome to drop me private notes as well—send ’em to blackdogpressATyahoo.ca.  Usually I get back to you within 48 hours but no promises, I’m a busy dude these days.

I’ve been editing my ass off for the past couple of weeks but I still managed to squeeze in time for another great passion of mine, making music with Garageband.  I’ve posted samples of my weird, ambient efforts previously (you can find them on my “Audio” page) but here’s a brand new number, just finished today.  It’s called “Idyll” and it’s one of my best pieces yet.

Not nearly as spooky and depressing as my usual efforts.  No, really.

Click on the link below, kick back…and let ‘er rip.

Meanwhile, it’s back to work for me.  Chat with you again soon…

Click here—Idyll

Happy Birthday…From me

Every year my birthday rolls around and I do my level best to ignore it, dismissing its significance.  This drives my wife crazy (that awful epithet “fun-killer” fired at me like a curare-tipped dart) but, on the other hand, it definitely simplifies gift-buying.

“Anything you want?”

“No.”

“Nothing?”

Firmly:  “Nothing.

And so forth.  But this year, okay, I have to admit, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  We had a health scare in our family recently and that really put things in perspective.  My daily mantra of “health, happiness and wisdom” assumed new relevance…and poignancy.  Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.  But we had a renewed appreciation for the frailties of the flesh and the bonds of family.

Then there are the two books I’ve released this year—yeah, sure, the e-books had been bouncing about for awhile, but to walk into a bookstore and see my work sitting there, waiting for some curious reader to happen along…well.  Sends a shiver through me just thinking about it.

Yeah, it’s official.  We’ve cleared the proof and Of the Night is good to go.  For sale as of…NOW.  You’ll find pricing and shipping info in my Bookstore.  Click on the book cover (above) and ogle the artwork, browse the jacket copy.  If you order your copy from me, I’ll be happy to sign it.  Otherwise, you can get it through your local bookstore, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

I love this book–it’s a fitting companion piece to So Dark the Night.  Scary, darkly humorous, a short novel you’ll zip through in one or two sittings.

To accompany the release of Of the Night, providing a kind of fanfare, is a CD worth of new  instrumental/ambient music I’d added to my Audio page.  I call this selection of musical oddities Language With No Vocabulary and I’m making it available to you free—play it, download it to your heart’s content.

Here’s a sample cut, a luvly little number I call:

Cidades Fantasmas (Ghost Cities)

(Photo by Jason Minshull)

The Waiting Game

The latest communication from Lightning Source indicates the proof of my novel So Dark the Night will be printed tomorrow (Tuesday, April 20th) and, if there are no obvious glitches, sent off to me a short time afterward.

(Sound FX:  Fingers drumming anxiously on desk top.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to post more of my strange, ambient music—it’s on my “Audio” page, just scroll down past the spoken word stuff and you’ll get there.  Really love these pieces, which I’m calling (collectively) Intervals.   There’s been a big progression since my first offering and one tune from this latest batch in particular stands out for me:  can you guess which it is?

Busy days around here:  Sam, Liam and a number of their friends (shout out to Sean, Dylan, Jess and the rest of the crew) are deeply involved in a short film project that keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I applaud their ambition.  Sherron has her own film on the go, an abstract bit of business for which I’ll be supplying music.  But the deadline for the local, library-sponsored film short film competition is looming, so I hope their post-production efforts go well or they’re gonna be scrambling.

Meanwhile, I’m fretting over the impending arrival of the proof, beating my brains out trying to find ways to better promote and distribute my independently produced books.  I welcome your input and advice on both these points.

Let me know what you think of Intervals too.  And keep watching these pages for more info on the release of So Dark the Night, a supernatural thriller with a heart of gold.  Your summer reading is on its way.  And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.