Seneca Lake, June 2, 2010

June 3, 2010

At 11:59pm, after tracking the last of the beats for the Songo track, code-named Calliope until something better comes along, I decided to call it quits.

I got it on that previous take. And my body was exhausted; my limbs sore and my back aching; my mind fractured and delusional. I'd recorded enough to give a foundation for 5 songs. Some editing will have to be made, and perhaps a few takes spliced. 

I took these photos of the setup somewhere after midnight, then tore it all down. Tomorrow I think I'll go home.

Ed Uribe's book is at the floor by the recording gear. It served as inspiration for cross-sticking patterns.


Playing with bombast and aplomb is difficult when I'm in shape but after 3 months of not caressing a set with sticks my muscles needed most of the month to get back into shape. It was only in the final 10 days where I had the form and endurance to lay down what was necessary to convey the right message. The variations on the Songo beat took days to control. The style is complicated, an amalgamation of so much Afro-Cuban music, and to play it properly takes not only stamina but the feel for the language of that rhythm. I wasn't fluent at first.

Songo, as a style, is probably the last thing to learn in the academic sense of Afro-Cuban music since it pulls from influences in the other rhythms. It was the first style, in the first real book I purchased, I learned when I took lessons in 1996. It and it's rhythmic and physical undulations are always in the back of my mind. I re-read my books and practiced the rhythm. I played it to the song form I'd written out. It never sat right as straight and driving. After more research with the Ed Uribe book, which details rhythms and feels in a profoundly deep way, I'd found that Songo requires improvisation to sound right. And the books can't teach the feel. That has to be heard and found. I did a lot of listening.

Improvising to myself was not easy, and playing with phrasing and lines like I meant it on every take meant that takes just wouldn't come together in post-production. So I went again and again, sweating and staring into the darkness until I got one version right. It all comes down to the left hand and where it is and what it's doing. It must be a controlled chaos while the rest of the body maintains the drive. The bass does do variations as well but not to the same extent. It's just such a beautifully minimalist, driving linear beat. It's so elegant. I hope the song expresses this.

The music I wanted to make at the lake was about returning to my roots. I feel that I found them. The jazz world is an influence but it is not mine. The funk world is great for expression, but I am not fully in it. I think in drumline styles. Afro-Cuban beats. It doesn't quite make sense with a last name like this, but it really does feel right. Hopefully this project helps me begin the journey of playing music I can fully consider my own and my voice.

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