Song: Constellations (Moments Left Behind)

I’ve been trying to get myself into a regular routine again of writing songs, and taking any kernel of something to the next steps, of demo recording and maybe making a video to go with it. This one — Constellations (Moments Left Behind) — might still need some work but I like the way I am trying to use constellation stories as a way to frame our own experiences. I think it sort of works.

Peace (and sound),

Song: You Couldn’t Lose Me Now (If You Tried)

Much of 2023, I wasn’t writing much on my guitar. I did other music projects (like my In An Otherwise Odd World electronic music collection) but not much in terms of sitting down, with pen and paper, and finding chords, and writing something new. It wasn’t Writers Block, necessarily – just uninspired.

Then 2024 rolls around, and I have three new songs underway.

This one is the first — You Couldn’t Lose Me Now (If You Tried) — and I decided to go further on it than a simple demo, as I recorded many parts, and it felt pretty good (except for some vocal parts that just eluded me, and I still cringe at those moments, which I sort of covered up with some other sounds. My vocal range is small.)

I felt creative throughout the entire process — from the first sparks of the music and lyrics, to how it ended up — and I was grateful for the Muse to be sitting there with me, for a bit.

My lyric sheets were an adventure, though, and periodically, I track my writing process from initial writing to revision to final.

Lyric Sheets: You Couldn't Lose Me Now

After the song was done, I decided to create an animated text video with the lyrics in Keynote. I was reminded of how difficult and how long it takes to sync words to sound in a project like this. But, overall, I am happy with how the video came out.

Peace (strummed with words),

Thoughts On Nebraska (Deliver Me From Nowhere)

Deliver Me from Nowhere: The Making of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska by Warren Zanes

A friend of mine and I have both just finished a fantastic book about the making of the album, Nebraska, by Bruce Springsteen. Deliver Me From Nowhere by Warren Zanes is a deep dive and fascinating look into how the songs — recorded as demos and later released as they were — emerged from Springsteen’s self-imposed period of isolation after The River came out and before Born In The USA would make him a global pop star.

My friend asked about my thoughts, and this is what I wrote:

First, I have a new appreciation for Jon Landau. I’ve always considered him an extra part, someone who only wanted the hits and pushed Bruce in that direction. The book shows a more nuanced look at him, as a friend to Bruce and confidant. It’s key when Landau knows the tracks they recorded for what will become Born in USA are hits but then allows Bruce to shelve them for more than a year as he deals with what will become Nebraska. Landau seems to be the one friend that Bruce could turn to during that dark time.

Second, the response from the record company to Nebraska surprised me. I thought there would be push-back to the album, and its dark themes and raw recordings. Surprisingly, they could see the larger picture of an artist’s trajectory. I don’t think this happens anymore in the music field, where an artist is given creative space to do what they need to do.

Third, I was fascinated by the technical challenges of moving from the TEAC master cassette mix to something the record company could make and sell. They were in this moment of technology in the music studios, and the old equipment wouldn’t talk to the new. The frustrations that Bruce and his team had were interesting, and yet, Bruce kept on. He didn’t give up. He had that vision, and his people saw it through. I also kept thinking: if he loses that cassette tape he carried around in his pocket … or if the TEAC goes kaput …

Fourth, I didn’t know that Mike Batlan, his engineer, was always on the bedroom with him, a sort of corner technician, watching Bruce record. I would love to hear his story of the experience, and how he saw Nebraska unfold from inside the room but outside the creative art itself. I have had this vision of Bruce, alone, but he wasn’t alone. Mike was there.

Fifth, I know Nebraska was influential, of course, but the book really pulls back to look at how it completely reshaped the music landscape, making home recording not just a place for demos, but as a way to make albums, start to finish. It’s as much TEAC as TASCAM, too, but for musicians in the field, hearing what Bruce did and actually released, jumpstarted an entire world of music making that continues to this day (I am thinking of watching my son produce albums and release them on streaming services right from his seat at our dinner table over the years).

Peace (and Song),

PS  — here is something worth viewing

AI Audio Adventures (Or How I Asked Holly+ To Eat My Song)

Music by DALL·E

In my inquiry around AI and Audio, I stumbled upon this interesting platform by musician/performer/experimental artist Holly Herndon. Her application — called Holly+ — takes an uploaded audio song and transforms it through AI and Voice into her unique musical style. I had to try it out (of course) and the results are strange but interesting.

I used a demo from a song of mine — with some lyrics from my drummer friend, Bob — called Faucet Drop (Quarantine Together).

The Holly+ tool digested the audio file and turned out a very different remixed version, for sure, but with the underlying DNA of the original demo still intact. There are no recognizable “words” in her vocal AI-infused audio, but that’s fine, as it becomes a different kind of art and collaboration.


But I also wanted to take it another step forward, by bringing me back into the mix (so to speak), so I sampled the first section of the Holly+ remix of my song, and began to make another short sample remix, adding some other elements on top, giving it a little more disorientation. In this one, it was all sampling — sections and loops, gathered together and the feel is very different.

So this moved from me to her to us.

Peace (Singing It),

PS– Here is Herndon giving a TED Talk about AI, voice and more. (By the way, she is part of a technical team working on ways to protect artists’ intellectual property in the Age of AI through the work of Spawning, and its website: Have I Been Trained? where you can search for art that has been scraped into AI databases.

AI Hip Hop: Do You ETMOOC Too?


Yesterday, I was playing around with the AI Music application within the voice-centered AI site called Uberduck, and I went back in to play around today, generating a teaser verse of a song about ETMOOC2. The AI generated the lyrics from a prompt, and then added a voice, rapping the words over a beat.

Listen to the short one-verse rap

Peace (too),

ETMOOC: The Emergence Of Deep Fake Music

AI Music by StableDiffusion

I’ve been paying attention to the ruckus over the deep fake music that has showing up on social media in the last few weeks, where an AI-influenced song – Heart On My Sleeve — using the voices of Drake and The Weeknd has shaken the music industry. The song in question was different from some of the earlier memes and remixes that were taking root in social media. In this case, it was an entirely new song by AI with the voices of the two pop stars singing new words generated by AI. And it was pretty authentic sounding, too, in terms of song theme and vocal intonations and phrasings of the two artists.

This podcast episode — The Daily from New York Times — is a good listen for an overview of the situation.

As a musician and songwriter, I find myself conflicted on the emergence of AI in the field of making music. On one hand, it opens up some interesting doors for creative composition, using sounds and voices and techniques that might not otherwise be easily available to musicians. I’ve done some explorations of AI music sites but haven’t yet been all that impressed by what I’ve found. Clearly, though, there’s more out there that I haven’t yet discovered and played around with.

On the other hand, the legal and ethical issues of copyright and intellectual property use and infringement are huge, as it has been for the AI art generation field (lawsuits are already underway over the scraping of online content to feed the AI databases) and it feels like another reminder that the AI companies will need to find mechanisms (or be forced to, via lawsuits) for recognizing the contributions of musicians to any field of AI Music. I don’t know how that will be done, but it seems important for the tech folks to figure it out.

This all reminds me a bit of an earlier post I wrote a few months back about using loop tracks to construct songs — which is something I do along with traditional guitar-in-hand songwriting– and whether that is “songwriting” or not, since I had not created the original files. The AI revolution takes that idea and pushes it about 100 notches further, in my opinion.

I’ll keep an eye on this field of AI Music, as songwriter, musician, fan.

Peace (and Sound),

PS — Update — I wanted to try out making a song via AI, so I used UberDuck’s tool to create this rap: 

I can’t say I am all that impressed but it was interesting. I also used the free account, which is clearly limited in many ways.

Musical Composition: Listening To Landscapes

My National Writing Project friends down in Southern Connecticut are hosting an event this month at the Weir Farm National Historic Site, inviting their educators to a theme of “Reading Landscapes & Writing Nature” for the 2022 Write Out Project. Bryan C shared out a StoryMap he has been building, and shared it out, and I followed his map and story, but I kept coming back to the phrase: Reading Landscapes.

I had this inspiration to make a piece of instrumental music, using that theme of “Reading Landscapes” that eventually morphed into “Listening To Landscapes” as my guiding muse. So I pulled out my keyboard, opened up some music software, and began to compose.

All through the making of the music, I had certain memories in my mind — of wandering through a forest on a path, of pausing on a rocky overlook on a mountain top, of floating on a river on kayak, of sensing peace in a dark wooded area, of returning to the path.

My piece — A Quiet Walk In Four Parts (Listening To Landscapes) — captured what I was remembering, and imagining, and “reading” the landscape from previous outdoor adventures, and each “path” wanders musically into the next.

Thank you, Bryan, for setting song in motion.

Peace (play it),