First snow.

November 24, 2011

“Danielle! Come here!!”

 

I put down my guitar and ran towards the balcony.  The opened patio door let in frigid air that wrapped around me before I even got outside.

 

“Look!”

 

White. White particles descending diagonally through the sky and down on the city. Snow. The first real snow fall this year. The neighborhood is hushed. The evening is lit by the crisp white particles.  There is an orange hue caused by the street neons reflected by the gazillion flakes coming down. They are dry and skinny, not like Vancouver flakes who usually come down as fat, wet conglomerates of flakes partying their way down to a relatively warm ground. Here, on the already frozen ground, once they land, the flakes rush around, pushed by the wind looking like white mirages, fleeting, ever changing.

 

I kept looking out from time to time to tabulate the accumulation, snow keeps coming down, reconstructing the view for us. This white delivery causes excitement, wonder.  Especially at night. The sonic environment changes as the high-end pitches get EQ’ed out, the world muffled.  It’s as if the world was suddenly all ears, paying attention, it’s differences and edges get blurred and erased.  A new exciting world, a place to be the first to step into, like a brave explorer on a new continent.   That is of course before you have to actually go out in it, before it turns to wet gray slush, before you have to shovel, strain your back and curse the stuff.

 

Well there is no turning back. Winter is coming, well actually, it’s here!  I keep hoping that it will be a mild one. I read last week that Ottawa was going to get a milder winter this year, something to do with the planetary wind currents.  I’m all for that.



In the morning I came out of the building, looked around. Snow melting. Bicycles left to fend for themselves, chained to a post, their tires buried in the whiteness.

I walk. It’s still fairly cold. The sidewalk is covered in a rainbow color thin layer of petroleum product. I’m suspecting it came from the sidewalk-cleaning tractor. They were out last night, very soon after the snow started.  At regular intervals I could hear the hum and the scrape of  engine and blade. I thought of all the people who make a living from the snow, they were probably all smiles. Right now, the soles of my boots have stiffened from the cold. Each step the sound is brighter, brittler,  my feet roll a bit, as the soles do not relax completely, held back by their frozen, stiffened molecules, it feels a bit like walking on plastic plates.  I guess I’ll need “real” winter boots.

I stopped to take photos and stepped in the snow. Immediately the cold penetrates the leather.  I forgot how real it is. I think of the homeless people who tried to find a warm spot last night. Around here, you don’t dream so much of spending the nights under the moon. You’re grateful for the roof, the warmth, the turtle neck, and a perfect hand knit wool  sweater.

Other than that, I’ll have to winterize the bike soon, riding time is over.  Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends as we head for the rush towards Christmas, New Year’s resolutions and parties.  The volume of junk mail is expanding daily, the commercials are all red and white and the store windows getting all festive.

 

Hard to believe…  we’re already at the end of this year 2011.  It wasn’t at all what I had planned. Big disappointments but also some major gifts from the Gods.

On this 200th post, I thank you for being there for the ride.

Talk to you soon!  Stay warm!  Love life.

 

 

 

I spent the last week-end in Montreal at the SMIM conference (an organization for independent musicians) The whole two days were filled with conferences, demo critique session, music showcases, music industry related booths offering their services and enlightening us with what they do and of course all the indie musicians who would be attracted by such an event.  They even gave us a cotton re-useable bag, a recycled paper notebook with the cardboard pen-highlighter and a download card allowing one to download music from the acts doing showcases throughout the week-end.  And to top this, there was a small espresso machine available for you to make your own drink, fresh Montreal bagels, fruits and meats and creamed cheese to nibble on between events. Wow All this for $15!!

 

My first event was a “stage presence” workshop at the Gesu, a magnificent venue just south of Ste Catherine Street, a cathedral that was transformed into an art mecca with multiple conference rooms, a large concert room and lecture rooms. Pierrette was our teacher. She has worked for years within the acting world at the Quebec theater school and is now working as a stage presence coach with the Cirque du Soleil artists.

 

Via play and games, we explored our relationship with space, with our fears and with each other.  The main goal was to get out of our heads and thinking to be into the now with full capacities and awareness.   For me revelations came right away, appearing in front of my eyes with each exercise. It was tremendously exciting to see so clearly. What was also tremendous was to witness the seven of us going from a somewhat introverted, self conscious stance to a fully expressive and curious attitude.  The shoulders loosened, the heads came up, the stares became confident, we were suddenly all game to try anything, to laugh and to open to the moment. It was simply brilliant.

 

the ceiling at the Gesu

Then I was off to the Place Des Arts where the other half of the events were taking place.  Alice and the Intellects a quartet of musicians delving into a mix of jazz-chanson-experimental sound were showcased, the guitarist was particularly brilliant.

Alice & the Intellects at the PDA

Then it was time for the Demo Critique session. We had to submit one song to a panel of 4 industry people who would then listen to one minute of the song and give a critique of what they heard.

I have seen this type of thing before and usually it consists of discussing the form, architecture and lyrics of a song and sometimes a few words about production. This was a bit different. For some songs one minute of listening was not quite enough to understand the whole process or structure or even quality of the work so it turned into a more personalized session between the artists and the panels about career, industry, sound, mixing or production issues.  Whatever came up was tackled.

My song came up third to last. Sitting there I was starting to hope my song would not be picked.  I had chosen a song from my French album which was released in 2005. I felt I had to bring a French song since I was in Montreal… but I soon realized a lot of artists in Montreal were presenting English material… So I could have presented a song from the upcoming album…

 

They called my name, I walked up to the microphone. They played the excerpt.

 

“So when was this released?” a panel member asked.

 

“ 2005”

 

“You haven’t done anything since then???”

 

“No, no, I have composed music for plays … I am finishing up an album now…” There was no way, in a few minutes to explain the process that brought me to today and to bring this specific song..   As I stood there it hit me that insecurity was actually part of what had dictated my choice of song.  Revealing.   There were some comments about my evolution as an artist and how I should have brought something more current… I explained :

 

“I have been on the West Coast for the last 22 years, I am new here and I am trying to figure out how to approach the industry. I thought that I had to present something in French since I was in Montreal…. at this point my main concert is that I am trying to figure out what to do to restart my career in a whole new world and I’m not sure what to do.”

 

Then one of the panelists offered : “ Find someone to help you package what you have accomplished to date into something fresh, use what you already have along with the new materials and present it in a new updated form.”

 

He went on with more suggestions that totally made sense.  Funny how sometimes you can’t see what’s right in front of you.  The panel went on to compliment my voice, the originality of the music, the sound and production.

What this made me aware of for the second time in the same day was how one has to assume at all times what they are and what they do. My head was so full of apprehensions, of fear of not being accepted for what I am or what I do.   I have been the one closing doors. The fear of rejection made me reject myself.  There is a great sense of liberation once awareness occurs.

Turkish coffee at the end of the day

The next day, more events. I headed back down to the Gesu and had a wonderful conversation with a fellow artist I had met the previous day.

 

Gesu at night

“It’s about silence” he said. “We don’t have silence anymore, we are bombarded by sound everywhere, in the elevators, in the malls, on the street, with the I Pods, the radio, TVs. Sound has been completely devalued because there is too much of it.”

 

As I listened to him, a memory came back to me.

 

Oregon. I had been on the road for 4 days. Camping, riding all by myself. No TV, radio, computer. Just the road, the engine sound and my thoughts. At the end of a long day of riding I had pulled into the town of Bend. I rolled downtown and saw what seemed to be a promising place with good food and free Wi Fi.

I parked the bike, grabbed my bag and my laptop, crossed the street and walked in. There it suddenly was. Music. Sound. Artfully organized sound vibrations reaching my ears, my brain. Ecstasy. Aural joy. It took my whole being, my brain fired up as if it was powered by endorphin based fuel. Totally blissful.  The music was like a life saving food.  It nourished me.  It was absolutely amazing.  I could not recall ever feeling so electrified, fed or uplifted by music in this way ever before in my life.  

Yes, he is right. Not enough silence to actually appreciate sound, music. If we turned everything off for a even just a day then went to any quality concert, we would be converts for life. We would likely worship that music and its makers. He compared today’s over-saturation of sound with eating non-stop. At some point nothing tastes good.

Silence….

then

Music.

 

His idea totally moved me for I know it to be true.

 

The rest of the day was filled with other special moments. Now I have much to mull over and organize in terms of where and how to progress with my music.  The business, the new album, the live show, who to work with and how to find them.  Integrity with my ideas, processes and artistry.   Thanks to this event I have a better sense of the present music scene and what I need to do next and I feel invigorated.

the how not to introduce your next song with "my next song is" workshop

 

This music industry is in a deep process of re-iterating itself. Many of the panelists, being adepts of independent music and artists conceded that the indie world and the mainstream music industry are two different worlds, that most of the old business paradigms are collapsing with the advent of the computer and internet based technologies.

A new era. Democracy in music. As any democratic process it’s messy, complicated and time consuming but in the end it’s all up to you. At the event one of the most comforting statement that kept coming up was : “Keep writing, working on your craft, get better because in the end the most important factor in this equation is the quality of the song, the depth of the artist.  The cream still and always rises to the top.”

As for the cream, my spirits rose.

So I’ll take a moment of silence to hear, to focus and to feel the muse before I get back to my guitar.

 

Hugs.

 

driving by Parc Lafontaine

 

 

 

 

 

 

songwriters in the round, Vancouver

 

Well, lately I’ve been working on “upping” my presence online, finding opportunities and trying to develop my music career.  With an upcoming album, the need to find bookings and make contacts so to evolve my career is acute.

What I am noticing is that the music business is getting pretty expensive.

Everyone from Sonicbids, to the “free” Supernova contest, to the conferences, contact rooms, to the bloggers, the venues, the agents, everyone wants money from the artists.  Every single one of them.

 

The ‘free’ contests ask of you to furnish fans, who in return,  must furnish personal information, online sign ups and the like.  Where does that information go?  Who knows?  Venues will ask you to pay anywhere from $5 to $30 to apply for a possible shot for a spot in an event.  A lot of maybes for your hard earned money.

For example Sonicbids is a website claiming it booked 80 thousand gigs last year connecting bands and venues.  For its service Sonicbids requires a monthly or yearly membership  so the artists can access online listings.   Each listing in turn will ask $3 to $30 per submission so you have a chance to apply and cross your fingers.    In the last month I have spent a few hundred dollars on such things.   So far nothing close to a gig or some sort of return has appeared.  It’s early I know.   With Sonicbids, if the venue or opportunity responds to your submission it is considered “booked”.  Some of those listings are obvious money grabs.  Think of it : offer the “possibility” of an album review.  Ask the artists to pay $5, (a low enough amount to justify giving it away to chance, like a lottery ticket)  multiply this money times thousands of artists hoping for some press, review one album or two and the promoter can pocket the rest.  Convenient.

Of course one has the choice to be discriminate and not participate in such things.  But what gets me is that this is common practice.  The outrageous “pay to play” that we used to hear about from shady LA club promoters 15 years ago has become the norm, common acceptable practice.

To add to this, many if not most of those gigs warn you that there is no pay available for the artist. It’s the door or the hat which means YOU have to fill the venue if you want to be paid.
The internet was to be the great equalizer for artists.  I think of it more as the great bulldozer.  It is now considered somewhat “immoral” for artists to actually want to sell their music for money or to simply put a value on their work because of the download phenomenon.  Most would never consider not paying for a pack of gum simply because the gum company has sold a lot of them already…  Heck, most people are willing to pay very high prices for T-shirts made in China for 4 cents as long as they are found at the Gap or some other outlet with a name.  They would never consider not paying their mechanic or dentist.  And they would still pay a tip to a bad waitress just because…

Being an artist these days seems more and more like a popularity contest that has little relation with the work or substance being offered.   Popularity bolstered by the amount of “likes” number of “views” and “listens” garnered online.  We are statistics freaks, there is nothing like the satisfaction of seeing a graph line go up no matter what it’s about or what the implications of the up trend actually are.  I think we have become slaves to marketing.

Maybe what I am seeing online is only the veil masking or distorting a deeper truth or real, actual  possibilities.  I am hoping there is some substance below all this mass marketing tactics coming from the graduates of the music business schools of this world.
In a conversation with a long time friend earlier this week, we talked about the artist.  How being an artist, a creator is more a fact you live with than an actual job description.   It’s a way of life.  It’s a quest.  I’m not sure how to (or if I should)  merge this deep personal artistic quest with the number of  “likes” on my Facebook page.
Interesting thoughts.  In the mean time, I got a hankering for grabbing my guitar.

Rock on.

Answers.

November 2, 2011

Clarity.

 

In whatever doses, clarity is always welcome. From darkness to light. Clarity.

 

To finally see the shapes and forms of a world formerly hidden or masked.

 

Clarity.

Yesterday I got a shot of it. It was initiated when I went for blood tests. Since April I had been trying to get a full physical, in Vancouver, I saw 3 separate doctor’s offices trying unsucessfully to obtain a full physical exam as I had some serious concerns.    When I finally saw a doctor for all of about 4 minutes she told me that I was getting old.  Who is to argue this inconvenient truth?

 

Yesterday something tangible was finally announced : hypothyroidism. After my initial reaction of “I knew something was up!” a second reaction of “I am now officially defective”, my third reaction was one of relief at finally knowing why everything felt like walking in an interminable underground tunnel with nothing but a small flicker of light here and there. The symptoms I felt had an actual cause.

They say take the little pills and in a month I should be back to normal. Cool.

 

Other than that, it’s been warm this week here in these Northern parts and this is one chance to wash Beowulf, which I’ll do tomorrow. Cool.

I will soon be moving into a new apartment, a place to call home. Cool.

 

We’ll have a heated, indoor garage for Beowulf so I’ll have my bike close to me, dry, warm and protected. Cool.

 

With this stability established for this winter I now can formulate and activate what I intend to achieve over the next 6 months or so.

I am blessed. I thank the Gods for all the gifts. I keep moving.

All my love.