Archive for August, 2010

The 24 Second Song

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Five years ago, I participated in a project of Angie Lehman’s while she was a student at CCS. She asked artists to make a 24 second recording inspired by a photograph and then made graphic designs based on these songs. The songs had to be composed and recorded within one hour of viewing the photo and could only feature one percussion instrument and one melodic instrument.

Here is the photo I received:

My initial thought when I saw this photo was a racetrack for mice. (I later found out it’s a picture of National Coney Island.) This initial thought led to the idea of mice drag racing. Which led to the idea of a 24 second mouse version of “Leader of the Pack” without lyrics. I made “voice” my percussion instrument so I could add a melody and chose acoustic guitar as my instrument. Using the ol’ Cool Edit Pro, I played with voice speed and quickly recorded the following structure:
– A section, mice singing in C major (happy key) as the race is about to begin
– B section, the race happens
– C section, mice sing again in A minor (sad key) as a low voice (DEATH) joins in

Like I said, it’s only 24 seconds long and it was written/recorded in under an hour (more like 30 minutes), so take it for what it is.

The 24 Second Song

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So I sent this to Angie and she used it to make the following print piece. The top is the email exchange we had, and the bottom is the design inspired by the piece.

And there you go – homework done! Here’s a summary of the project from Angie’s portfolio site (where all six posters are displayed):

These posters were created by method of chance. I randomly took pictures by pointing the camera without looking through the viewfinder at places that were open 24/7. I then selected the 7th photo from each location and sent it to a musician.

I told each participant that they had to write a 24 second song based on the photograph. They had only one hour to write the song and the time started when they looked at the photo. After I heard each song, I created sheet music for each song, inspired by John Cage.

Each poster incorporates a line drawing from the original photograph, email conversations between me and the musicians, and the new sheet music that describes how the music sounds. I guess the next step would be to have someone new try to play the song from the sheet music.

I’m sure if someone tried to play this song from the sheet music it would sound absolutely nothing like the original piece, but it’d be fun to hear.

What’s most mindblowing to me about this whole experience in retrospect is that a quick five years later, Angie – who I barely knew at the time – is now married to my longtime friend Darin Ficorelli, and together they are parents of a baby girl. Time does some crazy awesome things.

Journal Song: July 21, 2010

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I am excited and relieved to announce that I’ll be soon going down to a four day work week (by choice). I’m hoping to use this extra day of freedom to devote more energy towards recording/music/friendship. Recently life has been so packed that the only way I’ve been able to record recreationally has been to stay in on the weekends and sacrifice my social life. This journal song from last month relates to that feeling.

Journal Song: July 21, 2010

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Tony Rochon: Man without a Band

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Photo by Doug Coombe

Tony Rochon is too talented to be an unknown in this town. I first became a fan of his music in 2005 when he was rehearsing under my bedroom with Andy Roy, my old roommate (and a new father!), on drums. He had already recorded a collection of his own songs playing all the instruments, and the band was learning those tunes, which sounded like the Sloan-esque power pop I loved. Unfortunately, the band only lasted a few shows before caving into the pressures of real life. Coincidentally, just after the band broke up, Tony’s solo demos were played at a party by Tony’s old bandmate from Back in Spades, Stephen Palmer. Someone who wrote for Real Detroit heard those demos and wrote excitedly about them in their column that week. This excitement dissipated as nothing happened… for years.

It’s now half a decade later and still barely anyone has heard Tony’s music. Last year Tony joined Copper Thieves (with Andy Roy, my aforementioned ex-roommate) and contributes a few songs to their upcoming album. He also played keyboards with the High Strung at a few recent shows. Yet his original motherload of material remains unreleased. Tony is an unassuming character who spends his time with his family instead of hyping himself over pint glasses, so his network of local musicians remains small.

This year he finally put a three piece together to play his songs, with Stephen Palmer on drums and Matt Hatch (ex-Sights, Birdgang, The Go, every other band ever, plus another new father!) on bass. Due to conflicting schedules, it had been a month since the band’s last rehearsal on the day in June when they came to record these demos in my basement. Nonetheless, the songs sound solid. As fate would have it, between the day they tracked the instruments and the day Tony and Stephen did vocals, the band had decided to break up. Once agan, Tony is a man without a band.

So, like two drops of water in the desert, I present to you – at long last – two songs by Tony Rochon’s former band. Names for the band were discussed during the recording, but that is all a moot point now. Tony plays all guitars, keyboards, percussion, and sings lead vocals. Stephen drums and sings harmonies. Matt plays bass.

To those who wish they were in a band like this, comment below and maybe Tony’s dreams and yours can both come true!

Tony Rochon and His Former Band- “I Believe Ya”

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Tony Rochon and His Former Band – “Half a Mind”

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Everybody Sells Their Soul

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I’ve been sitting on a lot of half-finished tunes lately, feeling no urge to finish them. Even so, I am trying to follow the songwriting advice I read somewhere (maybe from Randy Newman?) to finish writing all songs you start, even if you’re not sure you like them. For me, writing and demoing can be nearly synonymous, so I’ve been demoing a lot of songs as a way to finish them.

This song was a structure with barely a melody when my old pal Ryan Clancy (The Silent Years, Rescue, Wafflehouse*) came over and recorded the drums to a scratch guitar track. Ryan’s drum part on the verses was so awesomely off-kilter and funky that it renewed my interest in the tune. I ended up keeping the scratch guitar track (with some stereo slapback) and added a fuzzed-out bassline and a simple lead guitar. The lyrics came naturally out of the feelings the music stirred from my current life. Considering how reluctant I was about the song before I started recording, it was sort of shocking how well the final product came together.

And now (spoiler alert) the Pop Project is working on this song for our next album. So the moral of the story is that whoever said that thing about finishing all your songs was giving good advice.

Everybody Sells Their Soul

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