Drunken Armadillo

Posted in Instrumental Music, Solo Guitar, Soundtrack Music on May 5, 2009 by alopecoid

This was recorded the same day as “Onda Feels Better”. Again, I was in the process of restringing my guitar and stopped in this strange, slack-key tuning and started messing around. This is one of my favorite things to do on guitar, and can be quite amusing. Sometimes I’ll leave the strings in some completely out of tune manner and start playing a song as though they were in tune. It’s endlessly amusing to me, and endlessly annoying to anyone else around, I’m sure.

I was thinking about my friend Jon Martin, and Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas, which he turned me on to. Real western, desert feel. I’ve never really messed around much with bending strings, I think largely because I always have thicker gauge strings which make it difficult. But, with the strings so slack and out of tune, it was suddenly easier. I like that you can hear the uncut ends of the strings rattling at the end of the song. I’m not really sold on the name, and would be open to suggestions.


Sunday Morning

Posted in Instrumental Music, Solo Guitar, Soundtrack Music on May 5, 2009 by alopecoid

This was recorded, surprisingly, on a Sunday morning when no one was around the house but me. I had just restrung my friend James’ Taylor (get it?), and kept it in a kind of open C/G tuning that I had just picked up from learning a Richard Thompson song.

I don’t think there’s anything too hyperbolic to say about it. This is the kind of playing that I often do just sitting around, staying in a simple chord progression and seeing what I can do with it. I will say that this is all improvised and unedited. Just me sitting in front of the big windows in the living room, with a cup of coffee sitting nearby.

Onda Feels Better

Posted in Africanish, Instrumental Music, Soundtrack Music on May 3, 2009 by alopecoid

This short piece was made while dog-sitting for my friend Kate’s dog Onda, who has since passed. Born in Brazil, Onda was a sweet little muppet-looking terrier type dog, who had heart problems at the end of her life. I had picked her up from the dog hospital and taken her back to the house to hang out and keep an eye on her. There was an old thumb piano, also known as an mbira or kalimba, and I started layering tracks to make this spritely little tune. As I was recording, Onda started to show just a bit of her old friskiness.

I think the piece is particularly effective on headphones, as I’ve used panning and fading to help provide its structure.


Posted in Instrumental Music, Soundtrack Music on May 2, 2009 by alopecoid

Oh man, I really love this piece.

The whole thing started when I was sitting on my parents’ front porch on a warm day. I had set myself the task of writing a song, which was having the usual stultifying effect. I’ve never been one of those writers who ascribe to the “write something every day” school of creating. I understand the benefits, I’ve just never been able to welcome that kind of discipline into my life. So, I had been trying to write a song, and it was just feeling forced, so I gave it up. Then, I started doing the thing that always ends up being the most productive, just enjoying the feel of the instrument, listening to what sounds good, basically letting the instrument tell me what to play. So, this really slow, maudlin riff came about.

A few days later I was back home, and started trying to record the riff. First I had to figure out what time signature the thing was in. 9/4, apparently. Next I added the bass and clarinet, two MIDI instruments that I had been using for the other pieces, and the double banjo.

Even though it was musically fairly fleshed out, I let it sit for a while. I was back up in Milwaukee, dog-sitting for a friend and spending some time working on music. There was a pet bird in the house that kept chirping while I was trying to record, so I finally got the idea to include it in the song. I like to think of the extended, unchopped chirping toward the end as a “bird solo”.

Finally, I felt like there needed to be some kind of percussive element in the song. Drums are the main thing that I don’t have access to in my bedroom recording setup, so it’s always a challenge to figure out what to use instead. Often, as in this case, I end up raiding the kitchen, where a plethora of bang-y things can be found. Here I grabbed all of the forks and spoons I could find and recorded several versions of them being dropped, both on the bare hardwood floor, and onto an empty cardboard box with the mic inside. They seem to be appropriately dissonant and whimsical.

Why did I call it “Marigolds”? I think initially I wanted to call it “Dead Flowers,” but that seemed kind of cliched. Marigolds seemed an appropriate substitute, although I can’t say exactly why.

The Moa

Posted in Instrumental Music, Soundtrack Music on May 2, 2009 by alopecoid

This is a tricky little tune that still throws me when I listen to it. I think the main riff was just something that I started playing on the guitar one morning. This, again, was during the period when I was just starting to play with the MIDI stuff on the computer, so I immediately took what would normally be a throw away riff and transferred it to the computer. MIDI marimba, bass, and piano. The banjo and rhodes are real.

I guess I envision this as the title music to a TV show. Something like Fringe, a show with some creepy paranormal stuff in it. I don’t know. I like it.

The moa were ten species of ancient, flightless birds that were native to New Zealand and became extinct somewhere around 1500 A.D.


Posted in Instrumental Music, Soundtrack Music on April 23, 2009 by alopecoid


This is a piece from the same era as “I’m Sorry”. However, whereas that one features a mix of real and synthesized instruments, this song is exclusively made up of MIDI instruments. I had fun experimenting with combining instruments to make new sounds. If you listen to the third sound that comes in (after the clarinet and marimba), it’s actually the acoustic guitar and sitar coupled up. (There might even be a third sound in there, but I can’t remember.)

The name is taken from the name of a little cafe that was down the street from my house, that closed a few months after I moved in. I had just come back from breakfast there when I started working on this.

The Z’s after could be construed as a reference to the sound comic characters make when sleeping. Also, I originally envisioned 26 different versions of this melodic idea, each named after a letter of the alphabet, moving backwards from Z. I pronounce it dodo zeeze.

I’m Sorry

Posted in Instrumental Music, Soundtrack Music on April 21, 2009 by alopecoid

I’m Sorry

About two years ago I had been kicking around the idea of liberating myself from having to write lyrics for all of the music I wanted to make, and just using the music itself to express whatever emotion I was dealing with. This piece was the first successful incarnation of that idea, and sprang into being without much effort.

Basically, the piece is addressed to someone about whom I had finally concluded I didn’t want to ever be in a relationship with again. There’s so much that could be said about that moment with words, but I think the music really expresses what that felt like, and I guess what I wished she could feel like as well.

On the technical side, the guitars and banjo are real instruments, while the bass and reeds are synthesized, or MIDI, instruments. I’d never really thought about writing for clarinet and saxophone before, but the standard instruments that come with Pro-Tools largely sound like crap. The clarinet, organ, bass, and a few others are the only ones that sound halfway decent to me, so they show up in several pieces from this time period.

Also, the ambient sounds and barking dog were just things that were happening while recording and seemed to enhance the mood. The dog is my landlord’s dog, Gigi.