As we grew older, this converted into making music together. Jeffry was in charge of the music, and sang whatever I could off the top of my head. His talents are infinite compared to mine, and I showed no aptitude to learn a single instrument. At one point he gave me lyrics to sing, but we ended up going to different colleges and I stopped being able to learn easily from him.
And, that's where I am at today. With others, Jeffry and I ended up making a lot of music together in 1998 when I moved to Arlington for that purpose. Of course, this never took the form of actual practice for me because by then I was 25 and I was well on my way to putting work before any other use of my time. So, what we ended up with is a lot of energy, but I never learned to harness any of it.
But, here's a sample of what we made in March 1999, fifteen years ago, at a place on the western bank of the Northern Neck near Tappahannock. (I apologize for the size of this photo)To The Moon
I will confess now that nothing in the above music was rehearsed. That song is 100 percent improvisational with no prepared lyrics. There are mistakes in it, yes, but everything I sang and everything my band-mates played here, including Jeffry, is something that was so powerful in the moment.
Of course, this style meant I wasn't very consistent. We tried to rehearse, but I didn't seem capable of the discipline required. We played two live shows, and they were both abysmal experiences.
For whatever reason, I could not commit myself to believing that music was something I could actually do. I came closest in the wake of leaving Arlington for Alberta in 1999, when I was armed with all of these tapes of the recordings we'd made. In a year and half we made at least ten hours of material. Jeffry and I did a lot of experimental stuff, too. I used time working at WVTF Public Radio that summer to digitize as much as I could of the material. They had just transitioned to a digital platform, so I was easily able to convert much of the material.
From there, I began to think about making electronic music. I downloaded a program called Fruity Loops and began making experimental compositions and learned how to make noise that wasn't entirely improvised. I learned a lot about musical structure and tried to take the same pulse I feel when I sing off of the top of my head come across in a short do-it-yourself pulse of sounds. I spent a lot of my downtime living in Calgary making music, experimenting as much as I could.
Unfortunately, I didn't use my voice very much. I couldn't figure out a way to work that into the process as I was creating sounds in a very different way.
However, when I got back to the United States in 2000, I used the same production skills I had learned making my music to create public radio for WVTF again. I had become quite agile at manipulating different sources of audio to create pieces that would be listened to by thousands of people. I scripted out words for me to read, and this form of production occupied my professional life for a while. On the side, I also kept manipulating sounds, and participated in a few side projects with Jeffry, but it wasn't until 2004 that I began to sing again.
I will be writing about this more. I don't understand why I make music, to be honest. I just know that what I'm doing right now musically is perhaps the most important thing I'll ever do in my life. That's a bold statement, I know, and I'll ask that you bear with me while I try to explain it. All I know is that for whatever reason, I'm supposed to sing.
For now, I close this post by adding a link to a little podcast I did in 2006. A lot of the material was contributed by Jeffry, but this is something I did to sort of stitch together a way to begin offering all of the material I'd made over the years. I regret that I stopped making this podcast, but maybe it's time to start again.
I think it's sort of bold to put yourself out there. I'm not a musician by trade, but creating sounds brings me enormous pleasure. I like knowing that I live in an age where I can upload something and it's available. Long ago, I chose to be a journalist, a kind of life that eats up time that would otherwise go to rehearsing and perfecting a song.
But, as a preview of future posts, I'll just say that embracing the way I create music is one of the most empowering feelings I'll ever know. I hope that eventually I can find a way to connect to people in this manner.
For now, I bring you the Notes That Were. At the end of the post, you can listen to the whole thing, but skip to 10:00 to get to a 1999 improv in which I sing about loving that I'm getting to sing, but then I quickly say how much I am not happy with the direction of my life. As always, the words just happened as a result of me being in the moment.
The title of this post refers to the beginning of a new era. By that, I mean I am going to begin putting more things out there, from the past and the present. This edition of the Notes that Were indicate that if I can tap into all of the way I can create, improv and structure, I can have a bright future again.