Back for 50/90.

Yeah, I’ve been silent for some months…

It looked like my life was going down the drain (and my job prospects still look dreary), and I continue to fall out of my practicing routine. When I do practice, my guitar skills seem nearly where I left them, and my voice is back to amazing shape within a few days.

But I’ve seldom started 50/90 or FAWM so uninspired and without any plan. I’m going to use this as a learning opportunity, just to see what I can do without feeling super inspired and hugely motivated. Because even if I’m not super inspired, making music and making songs is still huge fun, and I still want to work on that craft side of my songwriting.

Some writing tools.

No, I’m not talking about software here. Or, I am, but not about text editors or the like.

I’ve repeatedly complained to friends that my lyrics don’t rhyme. And so far, this summer, I haven’t put much effort into my lyrics. Mostly hastily thrown down, just to have something to sing, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad.

I’d like to write lyrics off my usual beaten track: Continue reading

50/90: Time to dream big(ger).

(Crossposted from my 50/90 profile.)
I’ve mostly done short-ish songs so far. Skirmishes, impros, quick sketches, most recorded in one sitting. I’m not saying they aren’t good, but… I somehow need to do some things with extended work involved. Improvisation is fine, but it’s not the whole picture. I want to do elaborate, longer things, too.

What I won’t sing.

Content warning: Some moderately strong language.
I realized yesterday that offering myself to collaborations might make some clarifications necessary. There are some things I won’t sing.

All of that is based on one simple fact: In the moment I sing something, I believe it. With all my heart. I have to be (at least temporarily) totally convinced to sing something in a convincing way. Singing is, to me, an act of magic. And of course, there are some things I won’t support with that sort of magic.

So, some points:
I despise nationalism. I may love the spot where I live now, but my love extends to all of the planet. Continue reading

Blocked.

Well, sort of. I did a lot in the last few days and now I feel overwhelmed with too many ideas. Like a donkey between lots of haystacks, I can’t decide which ones to work on and I get all fuzzy and confused. On top, I had been pressurizing myself to write “useful” things, not just impros and sketches I’ll never touch again. And that has been blocking me.

I have tried to take a day off songwriting… tried, because this evening, a lyrics idea jumped out of my head, nearly fully grown – I need to check some facts in the narrative I’m referring to and I need to translate it. But the storyline is there.

And for the rest of the ideas, I bought some cheap index cards today, to help me sort out on which one I want to work right now. Sometimes, cards are better for that than a plain list, and paper can do it better than digital means. I’m also thinking over which ideas could be stuff for collaborations and if so, who I want to do them with.

Off to practice guitar now – I haven’t done a single song with guitar so far, and that’s a shame!

FAWM 2013: What a start!

In the previous FAWMs I had a hard time getting songs out at the beginning. This year, that’s a bit different. I feel spurred by some friends who are also quite productive. One constant seems to be that I dash off in directions altogether unplanned and unexpected. For example, all of a sudden writing orchestral soundtrack-y things like this one:

There’s more in that vein in my head! Continue reading

To Do list for pre-FAWM

Oh well, January went by so fast! And FAWM is nearly upon us again.

I’d need to do some things before FAWM. If they fall flat, it won’t hurt too much:

  • Make me a cheatsheet of the essential LAME options.
  • A similar cheatsheet for ogg and flac is optional. A script that automates all the export things would be great, but I can’t brush up my (rudimentary) shell scripting skills that fast.
  • Get IR files and make myself familiar with Tom Szilagyis IR LV2 convolution reverb. My starting point will be the IR files at echochamber.ch
  • .

I also fiddled a bit with string sounds on the computer and made a string quartet version of the accompaniment part of my “New Year Song”. Continue reading

New song: Palaces in the Sky

This one was born in a weird fashion. I had the beginning of the chorus in my head first, an outright earworm, but of a still nonexistent song. It was clear from the very beginnings on what it would be about. So I slowly built it around this melody/lyrics fragment. I had to bully the lyrics into rhyming… and out came this one.

Palaces in the Sky

I will spare you my usual apologies about my guitar playing, rhythmical accuracy and so on… Can you guess what it’s about?

And here you are… my first two songs.

Life is busy at the moment, I hardly manage to cut out time for proper recording. I was fighting my recording block last weekend… which resulted in this improvisation:

Lullaby by roots & engines

The second one was written in summer of 2011, but only a few friends had heard it so far. It’s inspired by the photos, blogposts and videos of two astronauts I follow on Twitter and flickr: Paolo Nespoli (ESA) and Ron Garan (NASA). Paolo Nespoli’s photography played a great role in the development of the lyrics, and from Ron Garan I borrowed the term of the fragile oasis.

My Favorite Planet (Demo) by roots & engines

I still can’t play this pattern to a click, and my usual recording procrastination struck real hard with this one. But tonight the autumn blues had hit me on the head really hard and I wanted to get something done. Preferably something that has been on my list way too long. And so I grabbed the H4n and started shredding away and this was finally captured on an SD card.

But one day, I will learn to play this accurately. And then this one is going to get a real good recording.

About me and my music

I started learning the guitar when I was 9, but I have always loved singing and identified primarily as a singer since I was 13. I learned classical singing, and I started my training at about 10 in the choir of my school. I studied opera at Musikhochschule Saarbrücken, left to study German Literature and musicology at Freie Universität Berlin and now work in a totally unrelated field.

From late 2001 to 2004, I was the singer of a metal band. In the end, it didn’t work out well. I learnt that not everyone likes soprano voices and that recording a voice like mine is a tough task. I learnt that a voice can totally alter the way a band is perceived, and that a female front singer with a high, clear voice gets pigeonholed as a certain stereotype quicker than you can say … well, anything. This didn’t do any lasting damage to my love of metal.

I returned to classical music in 2008 when I joined the choir canta:re. (We have parted in friendship in 2012, mainly because my day job put a great strain on me and the weekly rehearsals started to feel too much like duty.)

And then, one day in autumn of 2010, I listened to a concert of Blind Guardian. IMHO a really, really great live band. And it kindled a spark. Yes, I loved classical music and it will always be my native language, but I also wanted to make music in a more lively, energetic, spontaneous way.
In February 2011, I gathered my courage and took part in FAWM. I wanted to know: “Am I able to write songs?” At that time, I was convinced that I’m no good at writing lyrics. I was terrified by that red button of my DAW, getting more nervous in front of the microphone than in front of a real-life audience. But I did it.

Slowly, the recording anxiety subsided – well, I still get excited when I hit that red button, but I’m no longer shaking. If I carry on, I might actually get to like it some day.

My gear

I have two guitars, a concert guitar, just called “the guitar”, and a 6-string Western guitar called Erda. I mostly use Erda for my singer-songwriter music.

Then there is my keyboard, a Doepfer LMK-1 MIDI Masterkeyboard, and the piano expanders – an old Roland CM 300, which has a beautiful piano sound but also produces some annoying noise, and a Roland SC-33 that offers some nice synth sounds.

Currently, I make my recordings with a Zoom H4n and a standard PC running Ubuntu Studio. I mostly use Ardour 2 or Audacity for recording and audio editing, for some electronic things I have so far employed seq24 and LMMS, and ZynAddSubFx is my go-to software for anything synth-wise.

Inspirations

Besides other music, my songwriting draws a lot of inspiration from three sources: paganism, science and space exploration. You will find some songs about mythical persons in my songs now and then, sometimes invocations of the elements, but you will find songs about heroes of space exploration, about telescopes and black holes as well. Everyone can make songs about monogamous romantic relationships. My creativity resonates with the awesomeness of our planet and our universe, as seen through the eyes of scientists and astronauts.

There are so many wonders yet unsung. I set out to let them light a fire in my imagination and turn these wonders into song.