I purchased a MIDI keyboard about a year ago—handy little gadget, plugs into my Garageband software, no problem, offering me a new range of bloops and blips to play with.
Whenever my writing process starts to feel stale or contrived, I haul out my MIDI and noodle about for a week or two…or I’ll descend to our low-ceilinged basement to slap and flick and scrape paint onto canvas. Anything to break the cycle of futility.
I’ve uploaded one of my recent pieces, a short, two-minute number that will give you an idea of where my musical instincts lie. Just click on the link below and away you go. Feel feel to download and share it, as well.
This kind of music is not for everyone, but it’ll definitely get your attention.
Hope you enjoy “Paint the Sky Transparent”:
Yes, boys and girls, time to do some house-cleaning, add a lick or two of paint, shake out the cobwebs, freshen up the ol’ joint a little.
Presenting a reboot of “Beautiful Desolation”, hopefully a version that is more readable and easy on the eyes.
Let’s celebrate these latest renovations with some new music.
I mentioned I’d purchased a MIDI keyboard for my Mac—well, yesterday I put the finishing touches on the first batch of music I’ve created with the MIDI and today I loaded a whopping fifty-three minutes worth of aural oddities on to my BandCamp page.
Here’s a sample cut from Primordial, a trippy number called “Corona” that’s quite representative of my recent work.
To listen to the album in its entirety, click here.
New music, new look…a good beginning to my summer.
And there’s more to come. Much more.
Keep watching this space.
Recently, I wrote a series of prose poems to accompany six visual pieces I’d created.
The marriage of words and images worked wonderfully and I’m delighted with the result. I’ve always loved collage, combining text and illos, loved staring at a photo or painting and riffing on it, writing off the top of my head, no pre-planning, just letting ‘er rip. “Automatic writing”, the surrealists used to call it.
Here’s one of the prose poems, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about (click on the image below to enlarge for reading):
Years ago I composed a series of prose bits* on the back of eight postcards I found, some of them based on famous art works, others historical photographs. Again, all I did was glance at the front, grab a mood or thought, flip the card over and commence scribbling. Worked like a charm (and a cool way to break an intractable writer’s block, hmmm?).
Just a little tip, o fellow suffering wordsmiths.
…and since I’m feeling especially cheerful and generous these days, how about some new music, an ambient number I call “Atmospheric Disturbance”:
- You can find these “postcard stories” in my Stromata collection, available from my virtual “Bookstore“…or you can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
Update, March, 2017: The Oleander Review, a literary journal affiliated with the University of Michigan, has accepted “A Personal Cosmology” for publication in their Spring, 2017 issue.
In the week since I’ve wrapped up work on Sex, I’ve been in kind of a “transition” phase, as I prepare for another edit of my novel-in-progress.
I couldn’t just dive back into the novel after spending several weeks tinkering with a batch of really dark, harrowing short stories—I needed a break, a way to ease into it.
I go through these periods every so often and it’s during these times that I create some of the strange short films and ambient musical pieces that you’ll find under my “Films/Music” tab. It’s also when I’ll retreat to my cold, damp basement and slap some acrylic paint on canvas for a few days. Experimenting. Playing.
And I’m prone to sudden attacks of poetry, as well.
Which is what happened this time around.
For the past 7-10 days there’s been a lot of scribbling going on around here and much of it centers around a suite of stanzas I’ve put together under the title “Sixteen Rites of Deconditioning”.
For at least fifteen years I’ve kept a couple of notebooks devoted to…I’m not sure what you’d call it. Automatic writing? Free associations? Visions?
When I’m in a certain mindset I feel a compulsion to scrawl words, disjointed sentences, dream sequences, snippets of verse. The spell only lasts a few hours, a day at the most, but I’m often surprised by what these sessions produce. Recently I decided to go through both notebooks and write down certain key words or lines or themes that stood out. Once I assembled a roster of these bits, I began to shape them, dividing them up, juxtaposing certain parts, creating fascinating fusions, collisions and cross-fertilizations.
I was delighted with the end result and just posted “Sixteen Rites of Deconditioning” on my Scribd page–I encourage you to zip over there and cast you eyes over a mind-blowing poem, by far the longest and most complex I’ve written to date.
I welcome your comments and reactions—the poem is certainly subject to a variety of interpretations and I’m interested by how people experience “Sixteen Rites”, if it strikes any familiar chords.
Am I plugged in to the zeitgeist…or spending far too much time alone in my office?
Let me know what you think.
I’m a space geek, a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool fanatic when it comes to anything to do with making the stars our destination.
I think it’s a complete drag how we seem to have stalled here in near-Earth orbit. Sending tourists up to the International Space Station at twenty million bucks a pop, while dispatching robot drone ships to the far reaches of the solar system, letting them do the work for us. No need for boots on the ground, expensive manned programs, grand visions…
I’ve loved science fiction all my life. Bradbury, Dick, Matheson, Beaumont, Ellison…those were my boys.
I’m also crazy about cinema.
Put it all together and you’ll (perhaps) understand what went into the making of “Planetfall”:
While I’m otherwise occupied, feel free to enjoy two of my recent ambient tunes.
The second, longer piece is an extended version of the soundtrack music for my new short film “Exoplanet”.
Taking a break from writing, concocted and edited a new short film.
“Exoplanet”…a love letter to science fiction.
Dedicated to Ian Sales and other bringers of wonder:
I’m a lifelong fan of science fiction. A space geek and proud of it.
Here’s my latest short film, “First Contact”, and, as the title suggests, this piece is about a close encounter with a distant, alien world, evidence of advanced, intelligent life. Abstract, indisputably odd…with accompanying ambient music.
A tip of the hat to Stan Kubrick…
I’m got a brand new book on the way, the most important people in my life are healthy and reasonably happy…oh, and I mustn’t forget that the fifth anniversary of this blog is rolling around. St. Patrick’s Day marks the unofficial birthday of Beautiful Desolation—raise a pint of Guinness in honor of a site that’s managed to beat the odds. Five years and still going strong. Surely that’s worth a toast or two, innit?
Today I put the finishing touches on a CD’s worth of ambient material and added it to my Audio page. Forty-six minutes of my oddball offerings; “Emanations” features some genuinely whacked out and trippy music. I’ve posted a 3-song sampler below. Check out my audio page for several hours of music and spoken word pieces, all of it available for FREE listening:
And while I’ve been waiting for the proof of The Last Hunt, I’ve been cleaning up my office, prepping it for the next project on my plate. Finally settling down and doing some reading as well, including a novelette by the great Jim Shepard.
Attended “Silence is Golden” at the Roxy Theater in Saskatoon and posted about it on my film blog. I’ve vowed to go on a reading and movie watching binge now that my book is done. My wife and kids are skeptical but I truly intend to ease up on the workload for awhile. Kick back and relax. Surely a few hours of leisure won’t kill me…will it?
Bit of sad news today as I was trolling through headlines. Ralph McQuarrie has passed away. Serious “Star Wars” fans will know exactly who I’m talking about. I remember seeing some of his production paintings in science fiction magazines like Starlog long before the film came out. George Lucas gives McQuarrie a good deal of the credit for the eventual look of his movie. Let’s hear it for ol’ Ralph. He helped imagineer a whole franchise. There aren’t many who can say that…
When words no longer suffice, I click on Garageband and commence work on some atmospheric, ambient melange, usually employing at least a dozen tracks before I’m satisfied the result is sufficiently whacked out and spacey. I’ve posted the best stuff on my Audio page and you’re welcome to listen to it, download…have at it.
A couple of years ago I got it into my head to write a murder ballad. I was raised on Johnny Cash and Hank Snow—one of the first tunes I can remember hearing is Johnny’s spooky version of “The Long Black Veil”.
I think I had that song in the back of my head as I sat down and wrote out the words to “Poor Mary”. The song wrote itself very quickly—I recall there were only two or three drafts. But once I finished, it was head-scratching time. What in the name of God was I going to do with the bloody thing now? I can’t read or write music, can’t play an instrument.
Ah, but I’m fortunate enough to have a pal who can pick and strum and carry a tune. So I handed the lyric sheet over to Laird Brittin and asked him if it was possible to create an actual song out of the few lines of poetry I’d composed. He liked the lyrics and came back with an arrangement that is nothing less than stunning. If you like “Poor Mary”, the vast majority of the credit goes to Laird, who truly found the perfect “sound” for the piece.
To give the tune a listen (it’s only three minutes and some long), click on the following link:
This happens to be my 200th blog post and I can think of no better way of commemorating that milestone than releasing “Poor Mary”.
Special thanks to Laird for recording, arranging and mixing this version.
My appreciation, as well, to the many, many folks who still make a regular habit of stopping by this blog and checking out my take on “the writing life”. It ain’t a particularly rewarding or empowering existence/vocation, but I’ve never regretted my decision to go the “indie” route.
It takes its toll but if this approach allows me to fully express myself as an artist, as someone with a unique perspective on the multiverse, I’ll accept the consequences, come what may.
And, hey, if I get to occasionally turn my hand to songwriting, come up with something as fun and enjoyable (and good) as “Poor Mary”, then all I can say is fucking bring it on.
“Poor Mary” © Copyright, 2010 by Laird Brittin & Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)
No commercial use of this song is permitted.