The Polar Vortex…not like other vortexes

DSC04281We are in our second day of the great Midwest Polar Vortex. I’ve honestly never heard of a polar vortex before, but it’s kind of a cool name. And really, something that’s allowing me to stay home from work for the second day in a row can’t be all that bad. My boss called last night to let me know they called work off because of the snow and blizzard conditions that we received the full brunt of yesterday, last night, and very early this morning. Well, after I came in from digging out a “pee path” for our miniature schnauzer Otto out front the boss lady called again and said they’d called off 1st shift for tomorrow as well. I guess the powers that be didn’t want anyone driving to work in the morning when it was -45 degrees(including wind chill factors.) I found that to be very kind of the folks at Medtronic. I’d rather live another day than to break down or slide off the road at 5:30am and end up looking like Jack Torrence at the end of The Shining(“Danny!!  Danny!!”) So with this extra day tacked onto my already week-long vacation I suppose I will work on some more music tomorrow. Since Saturday, I’ve completed three mostly instrumental pieces for a new project I’ve begun. Yes, another music project.

It’s called dreamdistrict. It’s something that I was inspired to do after hearing the Body/Head album. All guitar/voice. Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and some other guy I can’t remember are the sole members. Both play guitar and Gordon improvs vocals. It’s pretty heady stuff(no pun intended.) This isn’t party music. I mean, you’re not gonna have your pals over and pop this one on while talking small talk. No, this is something you put on and place headphones over your ears and get lost in the madness. I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to create music with nothing more than guitar and voice…heavy on the guitar and light on the voice. I recorded my first composition a couple weeks ago. It’s called “Damage/Stars In Ecstasy” and it’s a little over 22 minutes long. There’s dissonance and jagged feedback(even a swear word!!), but there’s also resolution and peace. Those are two things you don’t find on Body/Head. Well, as I was plotting out this project a funny thing happened: I heard Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. That piece of music completely reformed what I had in mind for this project. There could be the difficult composition, but there could also be this beautiful thing. A musical puzzle I assemble. The last couple days I’ve applied Steve Reich’s ideas of this perpetual musical loop that keeps repeating and rolling over on top of itself until it becomes something completely different. I don’t have 18 musicians to help me out on this, so I have the help of a looper pedal. I’ve had this looper pedal for almost 5 years now, and I’ve used it on and off but never to this degree. It has become more of a musical partner than just a tool. I’m really excited to share what I’ve done with it with all of you.

A few more things about dreamdistrict. One, I’m recording solely on a 4-track cassette recorder. I wanted the feel of something lo fi, but still well articulated and composed. I wanted to limit what I could do, so with every single note and part I record I’m making it count. I love the warmth of the tracks. I do use my digital recorder for mastering purposes, but that’s it. And the name ‘dreamdistrict’? It comes from a book by Sigmund Freud. It was something he’d written early on in his study and analysis of dreams. I liked the idea that in sleep there’s a “dream district”. This place where all our dreams lie and wait for us to reach them. Seems like a pretty magical place to me. I want these songs I create to convey a sort of dream district. I want them to have the feel of some otherworldly place. A place that is both beautiful and ugly. Peaceful and harrowing. Ultimately though, something positive. A score for some ethereal horizon. That’s sort of what I’m going for. Anyways, I’ll leave something for you to hear. It’s one I recorded Saturday and Sunday.

Well, if you have some nasty weather wherever you are, be safe. Wear twelve coats and six pairs of pants, along with a ski mask and a scarf wrapped around your face if you go anywhere. Oh, and make sure someone drives you. You won’t be able to see anything with a scarf wrapped around your face.

Otto Von Schntizen freezing his non-existent balls off.

6 Replies to “The Polar Vortex…not like other vortexes”

  1. Steve Reich? That’s some heady territory!

    I listened to Body/Head on the way to work recently … not good for arriving with coherent thoughts. It was perfect for an at-work vacation day.


      1. It doesn’t even take that. I have an odd thing in this modern world: a door. Plus, the nearest regular folk (those who don’t have an office elsewhere on campus) are 40 + feet away. Odd music does give the housekeeping folks something to talk about though!


      2. That’s good. Even the help need things to gossip about.

        Regarding Reich, yeah this album is pretty much blowing me away. It’s really opened my eyes to a whole new musical horizon.


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