reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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with abandon. [k.s. friday]

sing with frame

i warm up first.  the sound system is on and i wail through the building like a country artist on a flatbed.  the sound takes on air with the natural reverb of the room; it encourages me to sing more, sing louder, sing with abandon.

i’m recording nine pieces of music a week right now.  five of these are vocal songs.  i stand in the venue in front of the piano, boom mic in place and turn on the voice memo on our island-iphone-which-is-newer-than-our-other-iphones.  i play and sing from the beginning to the end, without stopping.  there is no tracking; there are no editing features, no going-back-and-fixing-this-or-that, no auto-tune, no equalizing, no other instrumentation, no balancing wavelengths, no mastering, no amazing engineer, no producer.  any ambient sound becomes a part of the recording. we listen afterwards and decide if i need to re-record, which simply means starting over from the beginning.  it’s more recording than i have done in-studio in a long time.  and it’s vastly different, this straight-up tape-it-with-the-phone recording.  in the last bit of time i have recorded over 90 pieces of music. that’s a serious amount of recording.  in album terms, it’s at least seven CDs worth.

it makes me want to stand -again- on a wooden stage in front of a piano and a boom and sing my heart out.  it makes me want to maybe get some of my own stuff – the stuff lingering in notebooks and folders of scrap paper – on tape.  it makes me think about rv’s and touring and the little voice in my brain reminds me that i’m 61.  “ONLY 61,” i retort.  it makes me wonder.

it’s a common story.  ask carole king or phil vassar.  they wrote songs.  lots of them.  and other people sang them.  until one day…and then they forever owned that boom mic over their pianos.

decades ago, i thought i’d just write songs.  i’d play all my instrumental pieces in concert – like george winston and david lanz – and i’d grant permission to ‘real’ singers to sing the songs i had written.  but then one day…and now you would have to wrestle that boom mic from me.  different stories, same principle.

we are singer-songwriters.  we are people who sing.

all warmed up, it’s easier to get from the beginning to the end without too much pitchy-ness.  it’s easier, warmed-up, to know what to expect from my still-healing-broken-wrists.  it’s easier to know what to expect from my voice.

and so i keep singing.  i wail through the building.  and the sound takes on air with the natural reverb of the room.  i sing more, i sing louder, i sing with abandon.

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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despite it all. [two artists tuesday]

lettuce

some things just happen despite it all.  for us, it’s lettuce.

despite the global pandemic, despite the absolute necessity of social change from deep roots of racism, despite political chaos, despite the economic impact we have felt, despite the isolation, despite the loneliness of missing, despite the challenge of seeing others maskless and cavalier, despite the sheer lack of responsible federal leadership in this country, despite our country’s inability to respond appropriately to a health crisis, despite questionable ally stances, despite ignoring the human-caused-destruction of mother earth, despite a pitiful inequity of economics, healthcare, opportunity in america, despite the mixed messages, despite the glib words of those ignoring the upward trend of a deadly virus, despite untruths, despite actions-that-speak-louder-than-words, despite mean-spirited messages and agendas, despite people and leaders screaming across aisles over constitutional rights, despite children killed by gun violence, despite extremism, despite empty words of piety, despite rage-filled brutality, despite an incapacity to live peacefully in community, despite unanswered questions and confusion, despite a lack of reassurance, despite the worry, despite the fear, despite the challenges, despite not-knowing, despite the grief, despite the yearning for normal, some things happen.

our lettuce grew.

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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the old file cabinets. [k.s. friday]

it's a long story

two old file cabinets.

the old file cabinets are in the closet in the studio.  at some point i organized all – well, most of – my music, lugged a couple metal cabinets up from the basement and spent a few days filing.  there’s overfill in a few cardboard bank boxes on the floor.  maybe someday i’ll get to those.

yesterday i was looking for a piece of music i thought i had.  i went to the drawer it should be in and starting rifling through the books and sheet music.  every title i looked at brought back memories:  “moon river” made me think of my uncle allen, who took voice lessons and sang that song beautifully.  “all i need” made me think of days at moton school center, comparing ‘general hospital’ notes with lois over lunches of peanuts and diet cokes.  “the rose” made me think of earlier years of promise and love.

i forgot about what i was searching for and dragged out a pile of music, sheets spilling out onto the floor as i struggled to pull them from their tightly filled drawer.  books – collections of artists or full transcribed albums – called my name, begging to see the light of day.  i whispered to them i would be back for them.   it has probably been decades since they were opened.

standing at the piano, not another thought in my head, i started shuffling through sheet music and playing.  it was no longer 2020, transported instantly back to the 70s, the 60s, the 80s.

had i opened a different drawer i would have found all my old piano books, my old organ music – tools of a student learning her eventual trade.  in those drawers are the books my children used for their music lessons, for band and orchestra.  in those drawers are the books i used as i attempted junior high oboe and college trumpet lessons.  in those drawers are the pieces that kept me on the bench for hours as a child and then as a teenager, practicing, playing, dreaming.

other drawers yield a plethora of more advanced piano and organ music, years of accumulated resources.  there are drawers of choir music, both sacred and secular, from years and years of directing and conducting work.  and still others house the scores of music i have written, staff paper and pencil, finished in calligraphy pen.

it made me want to just clear a day off.  liberate my mind from every worry, every task, every watching-the-time responsibility.  brush off the dust of the dark drawers from the lead sheets and scores and play.

i’d love to gather a whole group of friends around the piano and sing through john denver and billy joel songs, through england dan and john ford coley’s “we’ll never have to say goodbye again” and paul mccartney’s “maybe i’m amazed” and david soul’s “don’t give up on us” and the carpenters’ “bless the beasts and the children” and led zeppelin’s “stairway to heaven”,  through carole king and james taylor and pablo cruise.  through the ‘great songs of the sixties’ book and the ‘sensational 70 for the 70s’ book and fake books from all time.   just take a day – a whole day – and sing.  and remember together.

in light of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have to be virtual, i suppose.  so that might not be such a good idea.  but maybe d and i could just take that day.  think of nothing else but music and where it has brought us, where it brings us.  our long stories.

a few things can instantly place you back in a moment.  songs, scents, pictures.  a whiff of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume has me immediately missing her.  john denver singing anything off any number of albums of his that i owned places me in my room hanging out on my beanbag chairs with my slick 3-in-1 turntable/8-track/cassette stereo or driving my little bug around the island.  wings’ “silly love songs” or elton’s “don’t go breaking my heart” and i can feel the hot sand under my beach towel at crab meadow.

two old file cabinets.  filled to the brim.

so many treasures.

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where do we go from here? [d.r. thursday]

IMG_4630

“where do we go?  where do we go?  where do we go from here?”

an empty canvas.  a roadtrip with no predetermined destination.  where do you go from here, davidrobinson?

sheet music clean

an empty staff.  a roadtrip with no predetermined destination.  where do you go from here, kerrisherwood?

artists’ journeys, rife with intersections, foist decision-making upon us in our quest to create.  simply starting is sometimes an uphill challenge.  the questions are never easily answered.  the value of what we are doing is never really clear.  or is it – the value assigned to what we are doing is never really clear?

journey synonyms according to google: travel, leg, trek, ride, jaunt, expedition, drive, outing, mush, passage, junket, long haul, circuit, schlep/shlep, digression, transit, pilgrimage, excursion, sashay, traveling, tour, pleasure trip, odyssey, trip. 

i think schlep about covers it.

where do we go from here?

we have a daily decision, a choice to “begin anywhere” (john cage) and speak to the world around us and what we see through artists’ eyes.  we write, we paint, we compose.  we either create or we step away from the canvas, the staff paper, the qwerty keyboard.  we know that nothing we do will change the world.  we know that everything we do, like you, will change the world.

where do we go from here?

last night anderson cooper’s chyron read, “meanwhile, back in the real world.”  the real world.  a world fraught with chaos, trembling with the fever of a pandemic and the disease of racism.  we, as people, turn to the sages of old for words of wisdom.  we turn to art for honest displays of emotion.  we turn to music for expressions of pain and hope, grief, despair, love, action, change, fear, questions.

questions like – where do we go from here?

Every day just gets a little shorter, don’t you think?
Take a look around you and you’ll see just what I mean
People got to come together, not just out of fear

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

Try to find a better place but soon it’s all the same
What once you thought was a paradise is not just what it seemed
The more I look around, I find, the more I have to fear

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

I know it’s hard for you to
Change your way of life
I know it’s hard for you to do
The world is full of people
Dying to be free
So if you don’t, my friend
There’s no life for you
No world for me

Let’s all get together soon, before it is too late
Forget about the past and let your feelings fade away
If you do I’m sure you’ll see, the end is not yet near

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

(peter cetera, chicago – where do we go from here?) 

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everyone else. [two artists tuesday]

rustic bread

everyone else baked artisan breads in march or april.  we baked it in june.  well, specifically, david baked bread in june.  i merely had to watch the process, savor the wafting of baking-bread through the house, tear off a chunk and devour it.

he’d been talking about it for a while, that he wanted to bake bread.  this loaf is gluten free – he adapted it from a rustic bread recipe of bill’s.  bill baked bread in april and then moved on to homemade gnocchi.  a bit trend-resistant, we picked up the dangling carrot at the tail end of bread baking so posting this picture feels somewhat passe.

we aren’t so much everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-we-have-to-do-it people.  we are artists so that’s our first excuse.  our second excuse is that we are often not pop-culture-informed.  that was much easier for me when my children were right here, keeping me in the loop.  if cnn or aarp aren’t talking about it, if it’s not in our itunes or the stacks of cds and records we own, we are swimming upstream.  third, we tend to make do.  as a child of the infamous soap-sock beaky-beaky, who had a mantra of saving new things “for good” and turned bottles of shampoo upside down for weeks draining the last vestiges out, making do is an inbred way of life.

baking bread was no exception.  until june.  when we wholeheartedly jumped on the well-vetted train, rice-flour-research in hand.  voila.  heaven-in-a-loaf-of-bread, we wondered why we hadn’t done it sooner.

everyone else had an iphone.  i was one of the last dedicated razor-phone fans.  i could text with my eyes closed, even using the phone keypad without an a-z keyboard.  and then my children bought me an iphone.  a convert, i wondered why i didn’t get one sooner.

everyone else has granite countertops.  ok, or marble.  our kitchen is old but i’ve made over 11,300 breakfasts and 11,300 dinners in it and this sweet old kitchen has had over 33,000 days nurturing its families.  we chop and saute and mix and fry and bake and roast and pour – all successfully – in this old kitchen every day.  maybe someday we’ll have different counters.  and we’ll wonder why we didn’t change them sooner.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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irato.caesura.fermata.lento. [k.s. friday]

in transition

irato.caesura.fermata.lento

the chaos of irato.  a passage of angry, passionate.  a symphony of irate engaging us, challenging us, buckling us under in its fervor.

“take a break,” earth-the-breathless-conductor would admonish.  “hold and rest,” earth-the-counselor would encourage.  “slow down.  be deliberate,” earth-the-sage would advise.  caesura.  fermata.  lento.

acknowledging the rage.  listening.  resting in the questions.  conscious mindful steps.  measured decisive action.  slowly leading the way with goodness.

i suspect mother earth, in its mother-earth-wisdom, would hear the symphony as transition.  the space between before and after.  a time of growth and change and every possible note, every possible emotion.

we listen, as earthlings, imperfect-in-every-way, and we get lost.  to live in irato is uncomfortable.  a cliffhanger.

but mother earth smiles.  after all, she knows all about suspense and the big bang and butterflies.

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co-exist. [d.r. thursday]

marc chagall quote

at a time when i couldn’t afford paint and knew nothing about painting, i painted.  i was drawn to big canvasses and the household cans of black and white paint in the basement workroom.  there were housepaint brushes on the workbench, many with twisted brushhairs and dried wall paint from previous projects on the handles.  they felt good in my hand.  i didn’t know what i was doing, but i was compelled to do it.

and so, my paintings are black and white.  layers of white on black and black on white and white on black on white and black on white on black.  i brushed on paint; i stood back and spattered paint.  i kept going until i felt “stop”.  when i ran out of canvas i taped off a rectangle, ventured out with the leftover from a can of khaki interior paint, and painted on the wall, later framing the box with a clearance frame, broken but not obviously so.

in that time of a compelling need to paint, to preserve emotion-in-black-and-white-on-a-canvas, i wonder what my paintings would have looked like had i access to all the colors in between?  where would i have gone with mountain meadow green or razzle dazzle rose or canary or cornflower or atomic tangerine or fuzzy wuzzy brown?

anyone who has merely stood outside and looked up at the sky knows that the colors of life are as transient as breath.  they morph and change in the moments that go by.  capturing color is like capturing the wind.  one cannot see color without light reflections, refractions, wavelengths, shadow, absorption.  they work together so we might see the twilight sky, rainbows and unicorn horns.

is black black without white?  is white white without black?  is cerulean blue without scarlet?  is any spectrum complete without all others in the band of light, without all the wavelengths?  any spectrum at all?

do we actually realize that none can exist without the other?

“all colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.” (marc chagall)

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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poof. [flawed wednesday]

BMI music moves our world

“music moves our world.”  bmi’s tagline: “we celebrate your talent.  we value your music.  we champion your rights.”

i don’t blame bmi.  as an royalty organization, it is trying to keep up with an industry imploding on itself.  the very same opportunity to ‘get music out there’ using online platforms is what is destroying opportunity to make a living ‘getting music out there.’

as you might guess, i just received a bmi royalty statement.  the check, which will come later in the mail and stamped with a 55 cent first class stamp, will cost them more per penny paid for the stamp than i will receive per performance play of my music.

because i am a specific-detail kind of person, here are the details of that:  if you take my check of $71.57 and divide it by the (just shy of 100,000) performance plays this particular quarter, it amounts to an average of .00074 of a cent per performance play (you read that 7/ten-thousandths of a cent).  it you take a 55 cent stamp and divide it by the check, it is .00768 of a cent per penny of the cost of the stamp (you read that 7/thousandths).  that’s 10 times as much as i receive per play.

to cite some examples:  there were 7530 youtube views of my piece ‘last i saw you’.  the royalties i earned for that are 66 cents.  CENTS.  the piece ‘i didn’t know’ yielded 49,085 plays counted on a few digital music services, which averaged $.00025 of a cent.  that is 2/10-thousandths of a cent.  way to make a living.

i’m not really sure anymore why i’m telling you this, except for the big word “awareness”.  i think most people are not aware of the explosively-good-explosively-bad impact that all these music services have had on independent musicians.  headlining musicians and independent musicians – a schism of differences.  yet, i’m not a person with one or two albums, new to the industry, eager to do anything to ‘spread the word’.  i am an artist with fifteen albums, multiple singles, in the industry for decades and who did all the eager-stuff for many, many, many years.  and like you, i want to believe that all the time and energy and writing and practicing and recording and sacrifice and thought and perseverance and education and experience and drive and hard work i put in might yield something in return now – dividends – kind of like how a retirement works.

in these times of chaos – a pandemic, an uprising of protests striving for equity in race, in gender identification, in sexual orientation, in all manners of humanity – it seems that one of the most unifying calls is that of music.  music does move our world.

why, then, is this so inequitable for us?  because i don’t know about you, but there isn’t one bill in my bill folder that totals $71.57 over the course of a quarter.  dog food alone costs $73.16 for a quarter.  there isn’t a bill that is merely for $71.57 for a month.  not the phone bill, not the mortgage, not home insurance, not health insurance (don’tgetmestarted!), not the gas/electric bill, not student loans (again, don’tgetmestarted!), not car insurance, not groceries, not wifi-cable.  too much information, i suppose.

with thousands of cds in boxes in storage in the cds-have-gone-poof world, i wonder, as i have written and you have read before, where to go from here.  most professional careers keep building, arcing in some positive direction.  i try to remind myself that this music is played hundreds of thousands of times, millions of times a year.  i try to remind myself of all the times i have heard that some piece, some song, some album, some concert, some performance has resonated with someone, that it has given them a moment of reflection, of peace, that it has buoyed them.  i try not to be jaded by people who burn copies of cds for their friends or who change their email every three months to access apple music streaming for free.

but as i write checks or click ‘pay’ online for the accountant, the doctor, the mortgage, the water, the gas and electric, the health insurance, the phone bill, the wifi and cable, the car and home insurances, the student loans, the groceries, i wonder what would happen if somehow each of those things went poof and there were free ways to access all of them.

and yet, it’s true.  music moves our world.

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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romper-bomper-stomper-boo. wait. [two artists tuesday]

bcat in the window romper room

i don’t know about you, but when i was little i waited with bated breath for my name to be called at the end of the romper room show.  it never was.

i don’t know about you, but when i was in school i waited to be called on to teams during gym class, the teacher having chosen team ‘captains’ and those captains choosing their favorite friends, a really terrible way to divide up a class without hard feelings.

i don’t know about you, but as an earlier adult i waited to see a single song take off, an album go gold, the writing-writing-writing of a song recognized.  somewhere along the way i realized the sheer folly of that and i knew it was important to be satisfied with something-of-mine that resonated with someone-out-there; it need not be monumental to be monumental.

i don’t know about you, but right now i’ve been waiting to go places.  i haven’t yet gotten my hair cut or gone clothes shopping or been out to a restaurant.  i haven’t gone to the bank or a pub or even a starbucks.  i haven’t ordered out or picked up or sat curbside waiting for, well, anything.

i don’t know about you, but i am still impatiently waiting to see my children.  a city away seems, hopefully, doable in the near future but a trip to the high mountains requires a bit more detail, a bit more planning, a need for precautions and safety-taking.

i don’t know about you, but it all feels like we are on hold.  like we have dialed in and are listening to the interminable muzak-music but, with too much invested, can’t hang up.

we feel like we are looking at life from the inside out.  we are waiting.

we feel like we are looking at life from the inside out.  and we are watching.

we are watching others move freely about in the world and we wonder – are we the weirdos here?  we are watching the disparity between what people say and what people do – those who want to be perceived as covid-safety-savvy but are out tooling around.  we are watching the restlessness and the dismissiveness of a pandemic-weary-world.  we are also watching anxiety and confusion increase, sleep eluding us, plans in disarray – sub-themes of future covid-19 movies.

and yet, we hesitate.  to resume normal.

because these times are not normal.

so we take a bit more time to peer through the magic mirror, look out from in, and romper-bomper-stomper-boo wait.  just a little bit longer.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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give a flying flip. [k.s. friday]

every breath

i am imploring you to help keep my beloved daughter safe.

please.

enlightenment comes through unexpected channels sometimes.  this morning i read a post by a brilliant woman who was my piano student 40 years ago. she forwarded a writing by a young woman who is a server in a restaurant who detailed her experiences in just one of her shifts.

it’s bracing.

my friend-who-was-my-former-piano-student prefaced it with this:  “I know it will feel so good to feel normal again and go out to dinner. But please, read this WHOLE DAMN THING before you do. You BETTER tip your server like they are risking their life to bring you a drink, because they f*ing are.”

the server wears a mask and gloves, carries sanitizer with her to work, stands back 6 feet from her guests at the tables in the restaurant.  the guests?  they remove their masks, which were required to enter, as soon as they sit down and never put them back on, even while ordering, even while their server is present.  it is cavalier at its best.  her safety is compromised over and over, at every breath, and she is painfully aware, as you read in her candid outpouring.

is the safety of this server any less important than your own?  is she dispensable?  is your dining-out experience so important you cannot sacrifice a bit of comfort?  where has this message of it-doesn’t-matter-if-we-protect-each-other come from?  hmmm.  let me think.  might it be that the “leadership” of this country has made it a fashion faux pas to wear a mask?  might it be that the “leadership” of this country has made it seem unnecessary to protect each other?  might it be that the “leadership” of this country thinks everyone’s breath doesn’t matter?  might it be that the “leadership” of this country doesn’t really give a flying flip about the populace of this country?  if i sound pissed, it’s because i am.  enough already.

where do you stand?

i, for one, was breathless when i read the detailed narrative of this young woman’s shift.  with angry and worried tears in my eyes, i read it aloud to david.  i would love to read it aloud to you.

an expert at piecing-it-together during off-peak, My Girl, among other things, bartends and serves.  she busts her butt working hard in high mountain towns, waiting on tourists and locals alike.  she is a hard worker at everything she does and i have sat on her barstools watching her move in blurrying pace getting it done.  the last thing i want to have to worry about in the middle of this pandemic as it actually continues, despite the “leadership” and a percentage of the country’s population ignoring its steady presence, is whether or not the people who are sitting on those barstools or at the tables in her restaurant are (with sarcastic voice) oh-so-tediously pulling up a mask when they are breathing at my daughter.  i want to assume that they are.  i want to assume that the meager income she is hour-after-hour-after-hour trying to earn will not be dangerous for her.  i want to assume that the people who have chosen to go out, have a few drinks, eat a nice meal prepared by a chef, will generously, even at least appropriately, tip her.  i want to assume good although i fear selfish, unconcerned indifference.

the server ends her writing with a plea: “For the love of god..if you go out to eat please please please pull up your mask for the few minutes that your server is at your table. Why are you not already doing this?? And oh my god..tip your server like that burrito you are eating may cost them their life…”

have you gone out to dinner?  have you gone out for drinks?  did you ecstatically plan your outfit and put on your favorite shoes?  did you make reservations at your favorite restaurant?  did you pile into your favorite downtown bar?  did you wear a mask?  did you even bring a mask? or did you leave your mask at home because it’s not mandated by the local, state or federal government?  does respect have to be mandated?  does protecting each other have to be mandated?  can we choose respect and protection regardless?  there is still a global pandemic.  can we connect the dots?  can we think???

WILL you be going out to dinner?  out for drinks?  will you wear a mask?  will you carefully protect every breath of your server – someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, best friend, caregiver?  will you recognize their safety?  will you tip them for risking their life to bring you your margarita?  will you protect the others inside the restaurant or bar?  will you give a flying flip?

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EVERY BREATH from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood