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Allegiance (lost-&-found home recording #3)
Warning! The following post is a roller coaster of precarious digressions.
I don’t understand how anything works. I never have. I’ve always just watched the collective state of affairs with an impression, taken notes on what I sense & then moved on without conclusion. The spectacle itself can be exhausting, but if an essence can be captured, that’s enough — there’s nothing more to know, really. Everything is as-is. We’re simply on infinite experimental expeditions. Let’s just cut to the vex & read what happened in one such instance:
12/9/16 In prescient response to the election outcome the month before, my music licensing company sends an email. Their plan: to curate a selection of unreleased songs & have the proceeds go to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Hell, yeah” I say to no one because I’m alone in a budget motel checking my email while drinking bourbon & munching on dry-roasted peanuts. (It could also have just been the bourbon talking. I’m not sure. I have the quote Hell, yeah notated in my journal for that day, but failed to attribute the remark to any one party. Let’s just say that it was probably me, & move on with this already deviating post . . . ) After reading the invitation, one song comes immediately to mind — a demo that doesn’t fit in with other in-progress writing, but seems appropriate for this project: Allegiance. I reply that I’m outta town but will send next week, when back home. 1/3/17 A friendly Happy New Year email from the licensor arrives with a reminder about the song. My trip had ended without much incident, but my twenty-year-old Roland 2480 recorder goes on to crash upon my return & I lose access to the entire recording.
There was a fixer who lived between kills — in the hills — off a small road & down a dirt drive. I’d found out about them ten years before after moving to Upstate NY. They worked on Roland gear & repaired other machinery like my Yamaha MD8 minidisc recorder or older keyboards such as my Fender Rhodes bass piano & Wurlitzer — a mechanical up-keeper of a dying niche. The fixer & his partner were in their sixties, from the sixties — their children raised & released into the surrounding wilderness. When I’d call about a particular repair, the fixer would unemotionally assess the problem with a serious, clinical tone as if a specialist practitioner listening to an anxious concern about a sketchy rash. Then, they’d pass me off to the partner who would arrange an appointment to bring the equipment by with a cash deposit. After I’d park past a few off-road vehicles near their very-seventies woodsy bungalow, the partner would open a back door, guide me in with the gear & have me place it on a worktable surrounded by a collection of well-organized tools & spare parts. I’d hand over the cash, then they’d tell me the fixer would be right there & leave the room. It would be startlingly quiet while I waited — the sound one imagines as that of a sterile laboratory environment light years away in deep space sorta like Kubrick’s 2001, but closer to Carpenter’s ‘74 romp Dark Star. Sometimes, from outside, muffled explosions of barking beasts echoed in the overgrowth distance, wafting like a libertarian harbinger breeze. Then, as if on cue, the fixer would enter the room, close the door & approach the patient on the worktable. He’d visually evaluate the machine while diagnosing aloud, somewhere between talking to himself & me — maybe while dragging an over-focused fingertip along a track slider where there seemed to be dust, as if rapt in forensic thought. I always felt like he wanted me to see this — him disappointedly spotting neglected hygiene/maintenance. I’d think of the fixer’s grown children — if this is why they’d fled to the woods. The repair was usually done within a thirty-day window if the fixer could find the usually-obsolete parts. When it was time to pickup & pay, there would be a technically-over-my-head detailed rundown of what they had to do for the repair & then a stern lecture about keeping the gear clean of cat fur & dust — in my estimation, an impossible pipe dream that I’d promise to keep in mind, knowing I wouldn’t — similar to lying to your doctor about how much you drink or what you smoke. However, this fixer wasn’t available during the holiday lull, so I spent the rest of the week reconstructing the song from scratch: Allegiance 2017 MIX 1. X 2. wurlitzer electric piano-tremolo/sm57/grace-high accents 3. copy T-11-vocal-L 4. copy-T-14-choppy-R 5. wurlitzer electric piano-tremolo/sm57/grace 6. kay acoustic guitar/down-4/akg c3000/grace-strums 7. kay acoustic guitar/down-4/akg c3000/grace-strums 8. copy T-12-beaded gourd-L 9. kay acoustic guitar/down-4/akg c3000/grace-sweep 10.new vocal-harmony/rode nt1-a/grace 11.new vocal-main/rode nt1-a/grace 12.beaded gourd/akg c3000/grace 13. Casio SK-1/piano/direct Roland-high accents 14. Casio SK-1/piano/direct Roland-choppy line-L 15. Roland RS-202 Strings (II)/EH Pog2 (-2=2, -1=4, +1=max, +2=max, attack=max, LP=7, detune=max)/Boss SL-20 Slicer (effect=max, direct=0, bank=5, pattern=2, attack=max, duty=noon, stereo=fixed)-L 16. Roland RS-202 Strings (II)/EH Pog2 (-2=2, -1=4, +1=max, +2=max, attack=max, LP=7, detune=max)/Boss SL-20 Slicer (effect=max, direct=0, bank=5, pattern=2, attack=max, duty=noon, stereo=fixed)-R down 4: 1. G G C G G G G G G G G C C C C 2. C C G G D D C C C C G G Am Am C C standard: 1. D# D# G# D# D# D# D# D# D# D# D# G# G# G# G# 2. G# G# D# D# A# A# G# G# G# G# D# D# Fm Fm G# G# Pledge to be divided. Static heirlooms, passed down and believed, are swaying with the mourning wraiths pushed to the side — bowing to the clouded smoke between the lines burning from their blessings. Altars torched to fan the flames that be are banking on the glory wasted in the swells — bargained, bought and sold just like anything else sworn in and swallowed. Allegiances will bare the missing teeth taken as the warnings veiled into view — grinning, when the growling only promise to drive until there's nowhere to return. 1/6/17 A bare-bones mix of the song is attached to an email & send is poked with eyes covered. 4/17/17 The licensor emails a Thank You to inform that the benefit drive ended successfully. 4/18/17 Basking in a brief sense of accomplishment, other home demos are fleetingly reconsidered from abandonment. 4/19/17 An asteroid passes close to earth on my father’s 80th birthday, both threats to humanity. Also, the date immortalizes other anniversaries of terrorist activity. It’s a busy day. 4/20/17 For many reasons, Allegiance is forgotten.
Some years before, I found the above 50’s Kay Auditorium model in a Santa Cruz Calif guitar store. Those were years when, if you picked up the scent of a music shop, you could follow your hunch & investigate without considering a public health risk — salad days that now seem like a myth we nostalgically return to suspecting there may be no going back. I’d had earlier success with finding instruments in that town. The first was thirty years before with a used Kamaka pineapple uke. A decade later, there was a Harmony Hollywood two-pickup job that I was drawn to, but already had one, so I called a friend. (I do that — if I find an instrument I really want, but can’t justify for some reason, I start contacting fellow weak-willed musicians. I consider myself a rescue service — possibly even an enabling speculator.) With this Kay, though, it was mine the minute I laid eyes on it. There weren’t any other shoppers in the store, but I went directly to the guitar & walked around with it clutched, finders/keepers-style, like a crush-at-first-sight — a cheap crush: an object to optimistically put all of your dreams in, sentimentally believing it won’t betray you someday. All one can do is hope for an initial payout: fortunately, instruments always come with new songs to give, like a dowry. My last find there was years later in the mid-aughts when I chanced upon my golden fleece, as it was: a 1964 Harmony acoustic twelve-string looking as though it’d never been played. Same age as myself, but in way better shape. I also found a matching 1964 Harmony nylon string that day — maybe from the same collection, I wondered, but didn’t ask. It was at this point that I briefly deemed the universe a constellation of generous gods. I left without a Silvertone acoustic twelve-string I was traveling with, traded-in for a small discount, & walked out of the store with both Harmonys. That day, I was an argonaut. A smiling argonaut — in overalls instead of a toga. A victorious explorer. The Harmony twelve-string was later tortured to death by a serial luthier.
There’s no need to fret about not understanding anything — it can be a waste of precious consciousness. Offer me a midday nap & I easily surrender & dream of pilgrimages past & future, lucidly unsure if either truthfully exist . . . . . . like any reality, really.
P.S. Congratulations to my subscribers! EXTRACTIONS has been deemed “potentially spammy, unsafe, malicious & disruptive,” entertaining carefully crafted “misleading & violent content that could lead to real-world harm.” (Full-disclosure: Twitter didn’t actually describe it as “carefully crafted” — I added that part myself to make it seem like a book blurb. Also, I threw in an “entertaining” because it’s a verb that subconsciously implies a positive adjective. It works, right? I’d wanna read something like that! It sounds dangerous & subversive. I find that an appealing quality which I look for, not only in art, but with private company, as well. For example, have you ever been on a couple-date at a tapas restaurant — talk about subversive: it’s proxy warfare of internal chess-like strategies to see who will get that last octopus leg from the tiny plate. I always leave suspicious & still a little hungry . . . ) Anywell, Twitter has linked a warning to my EXTRACTIONS link in the bio like a piggy spike strip, just to be on the safe side. Bravo. Very prudent. I agree with Twit HQ. In fact, I fried up some spam just the other morning — I was out of links (sad face emoji), so I had it with an egg & a biscuit. Yummers! It was fantastic! Lunge. Retreat. Touche!