Hi - I have a record that just came out called CICADA WAVES.
I’ve been using this space to share the video for each track and different written takes on aspects of the album ~ hope you enjoy. Today’s the last installment in this format. I’ll be back with something else next Thursday.
A few things up front today:
CICADA WAVES was just named one of the best ambient albums of April 2021 by Bandcamp
Tomorrow / Friday is Bandcamp Friday, a great day to buy some stuff and, as of this writing, there are only 13 copies left of the second run of WAVES on there. I also hope you take it upon yourself to find some new musicians to appreciate!
I’m going to be releasing some extremely cool-looking wearable merch later this morning, maybe around 10am? Keep an eye out if that’s your thing :)
Okay. This video is a collection of spare piano key ghosts dancing in and around Troy, NY. It’s really nice. Got a crucial key-swing assist from Gracelee Lawrence on this one:
SCORE FOR CICADA WAVES
music for encountered sound and whatever else
but any instrument okay
even no instrument at all okay
just replace piano with "source"
intended for no audience
only accidental capture
Begin by having an uncertain and terrifying span of time before you arrive in the room with the piano. Be unsure of how to live or how to be safe. Let your arrival be something of a risk - allow yourself to be scared of global and personal circumstances, be nervous to make small talk with strangers. Make a momentous series of decisions that will change the course of your life forever shortly before you get to the room with the piano. Let there be newness both wonderful and dizzying in every corner of your world. Have something to let go of, something to process, something to work on being at peace with. Carry the tension in your shoulders and then carry the piano on your back.
Uncover the piano - lift its stable blanket from its equine shoulders. Run your hand along its wood grain. Count the years the piano has existed (...99, 100). Think about how old the trees were that grew to become the wood that would then become the piano. Wonder whether or not the keys are actual ivory but dare not ask. Open the lid and behold the many strings - be wary of their tension. Consider fully the fact that if the lid were to somehow fall you could be severely injured (a piano dropped on a cartoon character, splayed keys for teeth, birds tweeting in a halo above your star-eyed face, this is where you aim to be).
Spend most of the day preparing: read two hundred pages of a fantasy novel, run to North Carolina, go swimming with Jeff and talk about various holy experiences watching live music, spend two hours deleting photos from your computer. Walk all over, accidentally wander into the next county, get lost entirely. Accept the dozens of spiderwebs you walk through that get into your mouth like a communion wafer. Love the plants you cannot identify and the freaky little mushrooms and convince yourself at least twice a day that you've walked through poison oak, get rained on. On select evenings fire up the DIY sauna and sweat through your clothes or eat dinner in someone else's yard, bats circling overhead. Savor boredom, roll the lack of information sweetly over your tongue, a little butterscotch hard candy of disconnection. Tucker yourself out, and when the long summer nightfall finally comes be ready.
Your stubby little fingertips are little am radios picking up the country music stations melting in the pickups of your dreams.
Or they're little telegram receivers, morse code chords, love notes from people you haven't ever met.
Creak open all the windows in the space and wonder whether or not you'll wake up covered in wings after you fall asleep.
Notice the little fat drops of rain that hit the sills.
Hit record, then sit at the piano.
Settle heavily into the bench, let the creaks ring out in the space and in the microphones.
Let your shoulders fall.
Step firmly on both the sustain pedal and the soft pedal - this is your foothold, never move them, feel the wiggling of each struck string through the balls of your bare feet.
Act without thinking, widen the chords, do as little as you can.
Let each movement bubble up out of the dissipated ripples of the previous chord.
Imagine a lighthouse, it's beacon spinning slowly but insistently, and play only when the light hits your eyes directly. Do not be clever, and if you accidentally stumble upon something clever immediately stop what you're doing.
Play as little as possible.
Pick your melodies carefully, pare it down as best as you can (you will fail at this, but keep trying).
Imagine that you are back in the first Quaker meetings you ever went to in college, hungover and still stoned on a Sunday morning watching the dust motes circle in the beams of early morning light in the barely used campus conference room. Drink the silence in parched, bloodshot gulps. Do not move until you are moved to do so, do not assert yourself until it is profound to do so.
Listen intently, deeper than you have in what feels like years. Think about how every sound is made, how the white noise roar of a thunderstorm is the additive force of a million little drops, amplified surface tension cracking open against many different surfaces all at once, persistently. Count the seconds before the roll when lightning flashes shadows on the ceiling. Think about the cat who sits with you on the porch while you have your rocking chair breakfast, wonder where she's sheltering for the night. Speculate idly about how the insects outside make their noises and allow yourself to be wildly wrong.
Never allow yourself to be proud of what you are doing when you are doing it. This is simply a document, only a schematic. Don't listen back for weeks. When you finally do dip your toe back into that sacred hypnogogic august zone you must do as little as possible to the sounds - if they require any kind of editing they are of no use to you, throw away what you felt was the best and longest take because it cannot be presented as is. Allow allowance, permit permission, refuse to over-knead the dough.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I started thinking about writing a “score” for this record after playing for a small crowd over the weekend (a vividly emotional experience, lemme tell you). I didn’t want to simply recreate the music on record - instead I wanted to recreate the vibe of deep, sleepy listening. There was one great moment where I started fading out the pre-recorded cicadas I had put onto cassette tape and as they got quieter, birds from outside the venue started chirping. We were all in the right space to hear them, it was lovely.
This album is much more of an approach to listening as it is a document of playing.
Last time I’ll write about this album in this way! I really appreciate you hanging in here with me, under this nice little rainbow-parachute-during-elementary-school vibe.
I wanted to briefly mention my friend Matt Evans who just yesterday announced a new record on Whatever’s Clever. Without going too much into it right now, this record is really important to me. Urge you to spend some time with it.
But what about you? What score are you performing?