though it’s a tiny bit late, here’s may’s video progress report.
something i didn’t mention in the video (or rather, i did, but i excised it because it was getting a little long) was what a sequencing headache this album turned into. literally. it led me to examine the fact that the way i put an album together is a little different from the way most people seem to do it. my understanding is that it normally works something like this: you write a bunch of songs, you decide the songs will combine to form an album, and you probably have a rough idea of what order the songs should be sequenced in before you even record the first note. then you record the songs and you make your album.
for me, it’s never worked that way. i record a bunch of songs, i stop when i feel like i’ve said what i have to say, and then i start carving out what the album will be, more or less after the fact. sometimes the best songs are written at the very last minute, and added when i already thought i had the whole thing finished. i spend as little time as possible with the post-production process, and an album is officially released no more than a week or two after i’ve finished the final mix of whatever song i work on last.
if i were a maker of films, it would be like starting with a rough idea of the script but writing a lot of new scenes during the filming process, getting rid of entire chunks of narrative i thought were pivotal to the film, eventually throwing out the old script altogether, and changing the entire flow and meaning of the film again during the editing process while deciding what kind of film i’ve made. john cassavetes worked like this, shooting far more film than he could ever use and trying things in many different ways, so he could go about discovering just what his films wanted to be during the editing process. i guess i go about it in a similar way, but with music instead of film.
i could probably count on one hand the number of times i’ve started working on an album with a concrete, far-reaching idea of what i want to do in mind, and even then i didn’t always end up with something that had much to do with that initial idea, and i never went into it with all of the songs written before i started recording. my music is always evolving and changing, not only from one album to another, but often within the time it takes to record a single album. there isn’t a better example of that happening than this one, where i threw away an entirely different album so this one could be born.
when it comes to sequencing the songs, for years i just threw everything on cd in the order it was recorded. that seemed to work just fine, until more thought and craft began to seep into what i was doing and i realized it was time to start putting more thought into the flow of an album. after a while, i arrived at a process that seemed to work well for me. i would brainstorm rough ideas of what order i thought the songs should go in, and make tiny changes every step of the way throughout the process of recording an album. as the music shifted and some songs were pushed aside to make room for new ones, my sequencing ideas would keep shifting as well.
finally, when i felt all of the songs i needed for the album were in place, i would arrive at a tracklist that felt like it worked in my head. then i would try it out on cd. and, almost without fail, it always felt good to me, and i never felt a need to do any tweaking beyond how many seconds of silence there would be between the songs. the one exception was THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET, where i had a little bit of trouble with the sequencing. but then, i had mixed feelings about that album even at the time, and it’s due for a re-evaluation.
this time things got a little slippery. i arrived at my final tracklist on paper, tried it out on cd…and it didn’t feel right at all. i had to throw out all my sequencing ideas and start from the beginning, throwing out a few more songs in the process (aside from the 25 or so i had already cast aside) when i realized they didn’t really add anything to the album. now i think i’ve arrived at a sequence that works. i’ll know for sure in the next day or two, and the album will be packaged and in CJAM-ready form next week, one way or another.
i didn’t want to give too much away in advance, so i kept snippets of new music in the progress report video to a minimum. more music and info (along with the lyrics) can be found on the proper album page, for anyone who’s interested.
as for the context-warped public domain film content in the video, the most interesting piece by far is the terror of tiny town — an all-little person western film. i think it’s actually kind of brilliant, in its own bizarre way. the barbershop sequence i grabbed and used for the intro is like something out of a david lynch movie, before lynch was even born. you’ve got the typical western archetypes (the grizzled old men who can’t see past old prejudices, the hotshot young cowboy who falls for the niece of one of those grizzled old men and stirs up more trouble without meaning to, the villain who plays each side against the other and sits back to enjoy the chaos he creates while watching it unfold, the prostitute he mistreats who has her revenge in the end, the corrupt but conflicted sheriff he has under his thumb), all viewed through a slightly different prism and skewed, because they’re all played by dwarfs. i especially like the german chef who serves as the comic relief.
a tale of two kitties is a cartoon i remember seeing as a kid, featuring a very early appearance from a bird who would soon become tweety. experiments in the revival of organisms, meanwhile, is a soviet-made short film narrated by a british dude, and something animal lovers should stay far away from. whether it’s real or not (and it certainly looks real), there’s something a little disturbing about watching the decapitated head of a dog responding to external stimuli as if the animal were still alive.
it’s always surprising to me the stuff i find on the internet that’s fallen into the public domain, and how much fun it is to twist bits of it out of context. sometimes the music and the images combine in such a strangely complimentary way, it’s almost as if they were meant to find one another. i mean, who knew a midget standoff and dreamy non-pop would go together?