September 11th, 2005

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Record Release Party

You're all invited. It doesn't matter that you're not a joiner (neither am I, really, though I am now president elect of my local bar, founder of a chess club, moderator of various yahoo groups and in general involved in organized eccentricity almost without ceasing). It doesn't matter that you don't drink alcohol or even coffee (neither do I, really, though a cup or a glass has passed here or there).
It doesn't matter if you don't have money to buy tickets, or even bus fare, or if you're one of the hip kids, one of the cool kats, or just one, pretty much "only one only". I am, I hope you have realized by now, the least hip, least cool person on LiveJournal. I am so un-cool I'm tepid, which is kinda neat, because it makes me feel as if I'm tepidly sultry in a jazz lounge (steeping hot tea, ornetting saxophones, lingering women), only I'm not sure if men really do sultry all that well, and I'm the wrong temperament for sultry because I suspect my sultry would look sulky, or, worse, impassive.

I'm using this post as a kind of on-line party, as I've released this weekend my second album of songs, entitled "Eerie Exchange Prairie Park". Readers of this journal will know that in the space where some put "I hate my boss" and others put "Decaprio--man or myth?", I tend to put musings about my idiosycratic and not particularly talented excurions into that realm called "odd music". What is odd music? Well, it's a bit of a koan. Odd music is that music which is not "not odd". I can't really tell you what it is. It's when your song, entered in a song contest, wins "best male vocal" and "stupidest song ever" in the same week. It's when your listeners, as the_outsider pointed out, denigrate your for sound effects in your song that you did not put in your song.

Odd music is when you realize that the world is odd, and needs to sound that way. I make odd music. Would you join me to
celebrate it?

My new album is called "Eerie Exchange Prairie Park". It's available for free download at, at the following URL:

Eerie Exchange Prairie Park download--click here.

It's virtually completely open source, so that you may own it, use it, sell it, remix it, abuse it, ignore it, marry it, hear it, share it, copy it, transmit it, gnu it, file share it, or any other use, with attribution only and no payment of any kind. I have a day job. I don't want your money, or anyone's, for this one. I had fun making it. You have fun with some odd music.

Don't have the ability to download? Not to worry. I'll get some copies duplicated for mailing in the next week or two. You, too, can be odd, for free and without any technology more sophisticated than a computer, a CD player, or the ability to think of odd things.

The work marries two concepts I've been working on for a brief while. One is the idea of "Eerie Prairie", in which I've used
my music notation software and remixes of the works of others on ccmixter (the remixes are over at the mixter, of course) to try to convey the idea of the oddness of open spaces.
The other is "Exchange Park", my album of found sounds from a day spent gently tapping bridges and benches at a local city park,
and then synth-morphing the results. With each project, I got roughly half an album's worth of songs, and then each seemed done.
So I set them up on a blind date, it turned out they got a crush on each other, and we're now here to celebrate their lives together.

So you bring the hat and low-calorie cake, made with mix and canned pumpkin, and I'll bring the kazoo and the tearful toast.
If we imagine we can do so really earnestly, we can party in an eerie, exchanging way, in a remote prairie park.
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We watched Ken Burns' 1988 documentary on Thomas Hart Benton tonight. We enjoyed it very much. I'd toured his home, in Kansas City, years ago. I remember his daughter had drawn an angel in colored pencil in the front window. No mention of BBQ was made in the documentary, which is really a shame for a Kansas City film. I wonder, by the way, if Arthur's serves turkey sandwiches.

I liked the way that the movie quoted both supporters and critics, friend and non-friend. Both friend and foe had valid points to make. I love the way that some folks "hang themselves" in the way they approach Benton's work, without the need for the narrator to pull out any rope. Benton's choice to turn away from what his era's cognoscenti felt important and "right" intrigues and on some levels delights. The movie raises the issues of a "populist art" and the perennial problem of the difficulties in living the "populist" persona. I left the film fonder of Benton than when I began, as the film put a fair bit more flesh and flush-faced blood into him than my mildly pastoral prior imagined image of him. I like that Benton never stopped promoting his vision and assuming that he was to do things in the way he had chosen. Even when people mocked, vilified, or ignored his work, he kept hammering away at his chosen path. Was the path a worthy contribution or a dead end? I do not propose to assess this question. I'd rather go see a mural. Our museum in Tyler, 100 miles away, has a great number of the Texas provincial painters. But the movie made me want to tour Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kansas, seeking out each of the midwestern regional realists, trying to absorb their vision, now nearly lost.

The sense of vocation involves more than money, title, fame or "success". It's one part sheer pertinacity.
I find that if one is doing any worthwhile thing, or any worthless thing, a chorus exists to discourage one.
The voices that say "small businesses always founder" or "you can't do art and work a job" or "you can't try to make money off art" or "there are too many lawyers, and no work to be hand" or even "if you teach, it must be at the university level; if you wish to teach at the university level, you must realize you'll never get the chance".
I like people who ignored those voices in their external world--boxing them, re-defining them. I also liked, though, that Benton did not wait for work to come to him--he went out, and he fought for it, and his spouse helped him sell his paintings. No story-book angels--no easy morals. But I like people who live and work as it life and work matter.