12 MAGIC NOTES
Here we go - Ken has the floor:
"I love music! A magical vibration that truly cannot be quantified. Twelve notes, unlimited combinations, timbres and ways to interpret them - all starting with a “speck” of inspiration born from thin air. The creative process is amazing and I am blessed to be able to make music for a living. My relationship with those specks of inspiration, through recognition, conception, development, documentation, and then, finally, presentation of the results as completed works to listeners in all walks of life is a gift and an ever new learning experience. No words or song can describe the feeling!
I believe music, as in all art, has no right or wrong, nor good or bad. Every ear, heart and body has a unique reaction to the music they experience. Personal taste has no rules or laws, so as I discuss some of my favorite recordings I am only highlighting the music that has inspired me and accompanied me on my creative journey and throughout my life so far.
My personal taste in music is diverse, the one common denominator being a good composition, as I truly believe that in 99% of all cases a good song performed with honesty will always touch me.
OK. I think, if push comes to shove, Neil Young, and Crazy Horse, is my “desert island artist”. Mr. Young is a craftsman of timeless songs, all performed honestly with bared heart and soul worn proudly on his shirtsleeve. NYʼs originality and simplicity, without sacrificing detail, have never failed to move me since I was 10 years old. He is the one artist I have never been out of phase with on record or performance and, most importantly, as a human being expressing “himself” through his art. THE DUDE OF DUDES. Recording live and spontaneously, changing his mind on a dime, extreme as hell, always following the specks of inspiration in their purest form. Never leaving the moment. Genius! From soft dynamic folk to bone crunching punk...all perfectly written.
I endlessly rotate through the catalog and my favorite song at the moment is Cortez The Killer from the Zuma record. 7:30 of organized rambling and improvisation, perfect songwriting, heartfelt performance and he creates the moment and story as if you are there. The band is dynamic and the story and song are never overshadowed but fully supported. I get chills every time I hear the lines:
Hate was just a legend
War was never known
People worked together and they lifted many stones
They carried them to the flatlands but they died along the way
And they built up with their bare hands what we still canʼt do today
And I know sheʼs living there and she loves me to this day...
NY is my guy!
Next, and in no preferential order, comes David Bowie. Master of sight, sound and vision. True artist. I never tire of the Bowie catalog and I always come back to Life On Mars? What an original and innovative composer. Bowie effortlessly weaves so many styles into this amazing track without being pretentious. Itʼs understatedly bombastic. Bowieʼs melting pot of glam, rock and classical is so dynamic and captivating. He covers a hell of a lot of ground within the “pop” format!
Bowieʼs attention to detail and use of the sound palette and the recording studio as an instrument is a huge inspiration for me. For some reason artists that record live always touch me because it seems like the moments captured on tape are perfectly preserved and you can really relive a moment when you listen to the music. Both on record and on stage Bowie is an unrivaled pioneer.
Hendrix is like a heart with fingers. More than 10 fingers for sure. Taking the specks and following their trail, Hendrix is the master of feel and vibe, not to mention great songwriting. Like Bowie, Hendrix can use the studio as an instrument and also like Bowie and Young, Hendrix has a band with an identifiable sound that supports his vision without losing their own individual personas - another important aspect of a great band.
The Wind Cries Mary is one of my favorite Hendrix songs. Great lyrics and picturesque performances:
A broom is drearily sweeping up
the broken pieces of yesterdayʼs life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife
This track, with the instruments all panned in their own places, uses natural room echo and plate reverb to enhance the performances of the band. The dry to wet depth in this song is wonderful. What a flow. Perfect movement. Very cool, profound and emotional work.
THE ROLLING STONES
Probably THE Rock band for me. Great writing. Inspired perfection with all the flaws and nuances of opinionated and passionate artists within a group. Keith is another DUDE! There are so many Stones gems but I think I always come back to Wild Horses. One of the best love songs of all time. Acoustic based but so heavy in instrumentation, vibe and lyric. So sexy and sloppy. A wonderful mixture of craftsmanship and spontaneity. Amazing sound....check out the drums! And itʼs a true story of love and near loss:
You know who I am
You know I canʼt let you
Slide through my hands
Wild horses couldnʼt drag me away....
So, itʼs clear that I am mostly a disciple of pre-80s music, but one of my favorite post 80s artists and writers is E from Eels. E has a way of combining artistry and modern technology and all of his/their records are groundbreaking. The first Eels record, Beautiful Freakʼs title track is very cool. I like the way Eʼs honest performances and soul searching songs use live elements along side of technology.
E uses the computer as an instrument and his work has tremendously inspired my approach to my work. He gets the most out of simplicity while orchestrations provide depth and color. His range of artistry covers all the bases from acoustic singer-songwriter to avant garde. Beautiful Freak is a classy track.
KATE DAISY GRANT
As a record company owner, writer/producer, and artist I have spent the last few years developing and collaborating with new talent utilizing the “old school” philosophies pioneered by Ahmet Ertigun, Berry Gordy, and Jack Holzman. One of my longest collaborators is Kate Daisy Grant, with whom I am currently finishing her second record.
On her first self titled record I learned a lot about recording and breaking the rules. In a nutshell, Kateʼs first record is a collage of four different attempts and sessions of making the same record. I am a fast working and “go with the flow” type of creative spirit and this record was an eye opener for me. At the time of recording we went through so many emotional and stylistic changes and we wanted to keep them all. We used no click tracks to keep time, we performed live with strings and we also used machines and computers.
None of the four versions of any song were at the same tempo and we managed to put all the magic elements of each performance together and the sound was derived from both orchestration and many magical mistakes that worked! My current favorite song from that record is Truth, a darkish yet hopeful ballad. It was originally recorded with acoustic guitar, strings and vocals and ended up as a collage of everything from ships bells to fuzzy noises. Kate was so open to the creative flow and process and is always a joy to work with.
My favorite part of this song is the guitar that wasnʼt included in the recording but whose “bleed through” shadow guides the whole track as it was spilled over into the string quartet that was recorded in the same room. It almost sounds and flows like a hi-hat cymbal throughout the track. There was no hiding it so it was either leave it in there or lose that string performance!! It was a lesson in not being anal and letting the work dictate what IT wanted. We used lots of tape echo and plate reverbs to join all the rough edges into a seamless track. Kateʼs trust in the creative process and in me made this record a pleasure to create.
I need to mention some others who I am inspired by but space will not allow full discourse...
Led Zeppelin (whose music literally saved my soul), Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Miles, Coltrane, Jeff Buckley, Sigur Ros, The Who, Nirvana, Sly Stone, Grant Lee Phillips, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Tom Petty, Arvo Paert, Flaming Lips, The Beatles, J.S. Bach, Jack White, Johnny Cash, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, The whole Mowtown era... there are so many creative souls who selflessly share their gifts with us.
Music is magic. The partner that never leaves!"
Hear some of Ken Rose's artist roster and other work at: www.callmeken.com.
Follow Ken on Twitter (@BelowFi) and Facebook: www.facebook.com/Loonytunesmith.
- Rune H. Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org.