Upon my return to SC Thursday night I tuned the piano up to a lose half step flat. For some notes this was nearly a whole step from where they had been sitting, for others just under a half step. Today I tightened up A, E, B, and F# to an "in-tune" half step flat (G#, D#, A#, F). I'll tune the next third of the circle of fifths tomorrow and the last third Wednesday. My hope is that we can hold the half step flat tuning for the month and bring it up to A-440 mid-september. Fingers crossed!
Today we brought home my first upright grand piano. :)
A few weeks ago, Jess René found a free piano at yard sale. When I got back into town, we went over and discovered an OLD, out-of-tune (flat by nearly a minor third) and cosmetically derelict piano. But as we spent a time inspecting, we came to recognize an almost entirely in-tact instrument with a rich resonance hiding in the wood. So here we are...the beginnings of learning how to refurbish a piano and I AM PUMPED! Thank you Richard, Jess, and Audrey for helping move it today. Thank you Jeremy for letting us use the trailer. And thank you Jess for finding me my first very own piano.
In October of 2016 my Mom and I set out on a trip through the southwest to celebrate her successful completion of breast cancer treatment. It was truly awe-inspiring and I cherish the time we spent together. I look forward to reflecting, writing, and sharing some of those experiences in the months ahead.
My Dad was able to join us for the first leg of the trip while we visited my Uncle Tom (his brother) and Aunt Pollyanna in El Paso. I had never been to the southwest before (save for a featherbrained trip to Vegas). I was immediately and profoundly moved by the sheer size and openness of the landscape, the dryness of the air, and the wildlife determined to survive in the harsh climate. It was easy to understand and share Uncle Tom’s love of hiking.
On Saturday we set off to the Franklin Mountains State Park. The rocky range splits the northern side of El Paso into a Y with foot trails tracing its ridges and valleys. It was a beautiful and fun hike, and I treasure the memory of time spent with my Dad and Uncle Tom.
Thank you for your input Cecil, Chuck, Taylor, and Moses.
I got a call from my friend Cassy Renee asking if I would help her put together a video recording of one of her songs to submit to the NPR TIny Desk Contest. Heck yes! I love Cassy's music! Well unfortunately out schedules and a surprise cold kept us from recording together, but luckily Lonnie and Moses took care of her! Here's her video, Cassy is sooooooooo good!
During our initial conversation, she asked me if I was going to submit anything. I didn't really know what song I would record and submit for it so I kind of put it on the back burner. Then a couple weeks later I found myself monkeying around with my keyboard sounds and started writing.
The song first started as "sleeping with the lights on". I wanted to talk about consciousness and how I sometimes find myself disengaged from the experience of living because of the to-do list I feel like needs to be done in order to live (something I still really want to develop). Buuuuuut it just wasn't happening; all of the lyrics felt stilted, and I just wasn't FEELING IT! So I decided to write about someone for whom I am very much feeling it. I finished the song an hour-or-so later and played it out on the town at Montague's in Greenwood, SC. Folks seemed to enjoy it, so I figured I'd record it and send it in for the NPR's 2017 Tiny Desk Contest! Hope you enjoy "Kissing for the First Time". :)
I have always loved the way that sound and music bring motion pictures to life. Since 2005, I have had the pleasure of working with my good friends at Riot Scene Pictures (Baltimore, MD). I enjoy working on-set-sound, post-production sound, foley and especially composing the score for our projects. We’ve produced feature length films, short films, and released this past year a series called RISE. In future blog entries I will go into more detail on some of the fun behind the scenes aspects of the score. For this entry, I’m going to talk about the closing credits song written for the last episode of season one.
I wanted the final thought of the season to be an intimate reflection on death. We seek to comfort our friend who is about to take the mysterious journey to death. No matter what help we offer, we find the crossing breath from life to death is a path we all must take on our own. It’s a beautiful paradox that we experience solitude doing that which unites every living thing. While we approach what we find to be the final steps, we can’t help but remember there is no end to that which is, has been, and always will be - there is no life without death. I could write on that statement for a long time, but I’ll leave it to the masters like Richard Rohr. For now, I hope you enjoy “The Crossing Breath”.
THE CROSSING BREATH
Fare thee well, my fading friend.
I give you my permission.
The boatman now awaits your soul,
do you need a coin to pass?
No one else can speak for you and all that you have done.
And I don't know where you'll go.
Tarry not to take the test.
You've picked the path before you.
The final steps compel you now.
The present has no end.
No one else can speak for you.
Your journey's almost done.
But I don't know where you'll go.
I have been away from the blog for some time and am now returning with this reflection on emptiness.
For the past few months I’ve submerged myself in an conceptual cocktail consisting of Joseph Campbell’s Mythos, Richard Rohr’s daily meditations, and most recently (thanks to THE MAN, THE PRAYER DYNAMO, Terry Minchow-Proffitt) Thomas Keating’s The Contemplative Journey. All of these studies guide me to find rest in my “true self” and come to terms with the “false self” - my best fabrication of who I ought to be in the context of the world. Campbell talks about the “hero’s journey” beginning with the “left-hand-path” that takes you away from your established identity within the society to the unknown – the desert.
Dwelling in the desert as the true self, the quiet-still gives space to hear and clarity to see. The smallest detail of everyday objects becomes precious, the fleeting moment of a clear night sky becomes a treasure - a gift given to experience.
This piece, Void for Void exists because there is a hammered-metal lid for a pot I use when I’m cooking. It has a beautiful long-lasting tone. One day, I HEARD it, so I recorded it, played it backwards, and the piece wrote itself (as usual). What sounds can you hear around you right now? What do you see when you stop THINKING and start being?
The hammered-metal lid.
The piece reflects the steady and timeless nature of the creek with a single repeated note. Our harmony develops as a reflection on how we can draw from this abundant and consistent source. Our single melody reflects the inner workings of of the mill in it's vital days. As the melody (work) continues, it's purpose stays the same as the harmony (the times) subtly shift underneath of it, ultimately leaving the melody behind. Soon the times change and the work moves, and all we have left is the creek and the memories of a working mill.
If you would like sheet music, contact me.
This past week I bought a new Panasonic GH4 camera and went to do some camera tests. I decided to go down the hill and shoot video of the old Moore Mill on Hurricane Creek (Pelzer, SC). My purpose was a technical one: get to know my camera before I do some recording jobs with it this coming weekend, but it wasn't long before I found myself moved by the images I was getting of Mill. The constant whir of the creek outside, the light catching the dust, and the texture of weatherworn metal woke me up to the moment once again. Have you ever had that moment where you put all your focus on the place in which you are - then through that focus you become present in that place?
The next morning I found myself at the piano reflecting on the serene and nostalgic footage. There's so much to be said for being in the space now, with rust and dirt and floorboards you have to test before each step, and yet immerse your mind in the goings-on of years ago, when it was a vital and purposeful place. How did the wheels turn and belts communicate this organism's extremities with it's inner kinesis? What little tricks did the workers do to make their process smoother and easier? Which tools were the most useful, though now so obsolete? I'm thankful this was the place I found myself testing my camera.
Today, I share my reflection I had while tinkering on my parent’s piano I grew-up on. In 2014 my mentor steered me toward mindfulness – specifically practicing mindfulness around the ways I react. I find it’s so easy for me to fly off my game because of some transient discomfort. I scramble about in a flustered attempt to fix whatever new cataclysm I sense erupting around me. I experience a life-train-derailment, rather than seeing the issue as it is: a small road-block, during a fraction of my life-time. And to this day I find myself ensnared in minuscule issues clawing my way out.
Sometimes, I just have to stop and ask myself, “Am I busting my hump clearing snow that’s going to melt in the rain tomorrow?”
Rain after Snow
Yesterday it snowed. It stayed below freezing through the day and after dark it warmed up. By eleven the boards on deck were wet reflecting the street lights.
This morning there were only thin traces of white in the grass and mulch, and little piles of soggy snow we had heaped off of our road and walkways yesterday.
that linger on
Go ahead, figure out just what it was that ruined it. You had it all but wanted more and pitched a fit and destiny would play along. The caveat: you get just what you want until you haven't got a single thing you need. And it's simple enough the feast has passed and now you hunger on.
And no, you can't go back and do it all again.
Mull it over, wake to sleep and sleep to wake Relive it again and again for pity's sake til you're screaming out your heartache song after song. You think, "you get it off your chest" until you see you've burned it in. Sealed for all the rest of your days within the riches past and scars that linger on.
And no, you can't go back and do it all again.
The old college roommates got together the weekend of Hurricane Joaquin. We celebrated John's "Bachelor Party" in our true nerd fashion! Ate delicious food, drank fine beverages, and played great video games. Really, being together just to have fun was the main event (not including the wedding). The weekend drew to a close and I found myself with Zak's ukulele in my hand, plucking out little ostinatos, as I processed the feelings spending rich time with old friends provides. As I looked back, years into the past, I ran the "what-if" gauntlet...and fell. I began to identify ways my introspection and projects had carried me forward while simultaneously binding me to a perception of myself and my experiences.
We return again to our Enslavement-Freedom continuum. In Each and Every Time our release, our letting go, grants us freedom. In that linger on, we are captured by the "what-ifs" that keep us from WHAT IS. Why do we struggle so wholeheartedly with a life that simply doesn't exist? Where is the line between processing our emotional struggles and allowing our hurt, loss, and/or regret to indwell our identities? How can we mediate our thoughts and feelings to heal that which needs healing, and dismiss that which needs dismissing? What moments linger on?
Special thanks to Zak, for letting me borrow his beautiful ukulele, pictured below, for this project.
Today I share with you, "Sunrise". I love how the morning twilight builds so smoothly to the explosive brilliance of the sun climbing into the sky. I just bought my first guitar this past Tuesday--a Jackson JS-10 Dinky! It's a great and affordable instrument! I've toyed with the idea of buying an electric for years, but was able to borrow my cousin's beautiful Westone Rainbow and Fender Mustang to play through Garrett's B-52 half stack while living at Wentworth Studios. So there was no urgency. But, after being hounded by guitar textures in my head over the past weeks, the time had come. So backing up: in college, Jared and Zak were into this Icelandic group called,
. They would fill the apartment with the lush sounds of steadily building string sections, guitars, and mystical vocals. And thus I fell in love with ambient post rock.
A few years later, my cousin, Melissa introduced me to
. The synthesized elements enhanced the guitar elements. The electronic percussion helped create contrast with the live percussion. It was a steady groove with a rich atmosphere.
I fed on analyzing their orchestration and arrangement but more importantly, I LIKED HOW I FELT WHEN I LISTENED TO IT! I wanted to experience the creation of that kind of project. So I am pleased to share with you today, "Sunrise".
Each and Every Time
When I would let it go I wouldn’t go without. In every song a gift beheld.
I was by your side each and every time.
And when I woke to see You gave it all to me, every moment each eternal bliss.
I was by your side each and every time.
This past summer was a time of transition for my life. As I planned how to launch into music composition and private recording engineering in a full-time capacity, I envisioned busy days working meticulously on my art and sharing constant threads of updates with interested followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. Passing Worth and it’s newly released full-length album, “Getting Over You” would experience continuous growth and exposure in popular and artistically rich circles. Miles to Go would release it’s second full-length album “Perspective” and soon after a song cycle entitled, “The Mystic Set”. All things would blossom! All things would blaze hot! I was answering what I felt (and still feel) as God’s calling and thusly anticipated God answering mine.
My new chapter began in July. For the first time in years, I rested. And much to my surprise, I found that I actually liked getting rest! It was different than sleeping however many (or few) hours available. With newfound time I could rejoin friends on an annual work week in Belington, WV, help Scottie and Marie paint their new home, and even watch Supernatural and Chopped with Moses and Jenny! Taking on writing and recording projects, I still managed to accomplish a portion of what I set out to do. But something was different. My “go-to” stressful and hyperactive workflow was becoming obsolete. And while I treasured the vigor and thrill of the days I employed it, I found a deeper fulfillment in slower, more reflective, and ultimately more focused work in this new phase.
In letting go of the need to “make it all work” and listening to the MUSIC (the REAL music ebbing in flowing all around and within us) I have been able to experience life, not just live it. I am finding that much of my new composition over the past months deals with the continuum between Enslavement and Freedom. In what ways are we held captive by our own expectations of reality? In what ways are we liberated?
I am happy to share with you today, Each and Every Time, which is a reflection on gratitude of provision within release.
This video was shot on the hurricane creek in Pelzer, SC at sunrise on December 3, 2015. Special thanks to Terry, Carla, David and Cecil.
Severna Park native Alex Davis whet his performing appetite with a performance of Billy Joel’s “She’s Got A Way” during Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival in 2006, but at that point, he still had miles to go before reaching the status of full-time musician. Now, as the lead singer and keyboardist of two bands - Miles To Go and Passing Worth – that are set to release albums later this year, he is closer to making music his sole career.
A few weeks ago I got a phone call from Zach Sparks at the Severna Park Voice. He had found me through an old reverbnation page that is linked to an email I can't even access anymore; I hadn't even updated it to reflect that I lived in South Carolina. Well this worked out, because Zach was searching for local artists in Severna Park and stumbled onto me in this way. Zach was interested in interviewing me to talk about I had shifted from the solo act "Alex Davis" in 2008, to Passing Worth and Miles to Go that currently are working so hard on albums and tour planning. It's amazing how things like this happen. I had just given my letter of resignation for my full time job at Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church to pursue music in a full time capacity when he called. All that's to say, I can use all the support that comes my way.
I'm thankful for our meeting for many reasons. One, it was so refreshing to talk with someone who values the person-to-person interaction in a conversation, rather than a message thread. Two, it was great to talk with someone about the development of my relationship with my art and reflect on how it continues to become more meaningful to me on every level. And lastly, it was nice to feel like I'm doing something worth writing about, maybe people might even want to come to a show and hear what it is that has compelled me to take such a huge leap of faith from a full-time job and comfortable home-studio arrangement to a life on the road.
Ah heck, I can go on and on about it. Better off just pointing you to the words of Zach Sparks. Thanks so much, man!
Check out our single Miles to Go just released on the Dodgy Art No.1 compilation album. This was a really exciting project to put out. We got together for a Wednesday night practice and recorded, and decided we wanted to put something on the Dodgy Art compilation, which was to be assembled on Thursday. So that night Cecil Decker and I went to work on the track putting little synth diddys and trying to mix something worth while. I feel like it's a pretty great little preview of our upcoming album, Perspective. Check out more about Dodgy Art!
Check out a preview of Passing Worth's new album, Getting Over You! We have been taking our sweet time with production of this album, but I think we'll have something really special to show for it in late spring of 2015! Keep up with us on facebook and twitter! [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6MXgWuvs4g[/embed]