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WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

The whole and the piece

I started noticing a pattern when I was a kid, where I'd keep making things bigger — more multifaceted, typically.

So one question, with the Ear Reverends' music, has been about the size of works. Is this thing I am working on a song, an album — more? less? Is it, as music, just what one will hear? What about other aspects of its experience, perceptual and conceptual?

Part of what I've been doing lately is evaluating the relationship between planning and doing. In particular, between talking about plans and doing them.

This blog has always been a question, in terms of what is said and what is presented, in relationship to the music. And, same with the website—the web is a part of this music, as an interface to it.

I am working on some things. Maybe they will be bigger things, and take more time. Maybe taking a lot more time.

So, Wrong Notes may be slow for a while.

Music is for sharing

One of main attributes that we enjoy in music is that music is a way of sharing enjoyment between people.

This is just a couple thoughts:

The main thing we want to do with music we enjoy is share it. A fundamental part of the enjoyment of music is that the enjoyment can be shared, just by sharing the music. Music is a way of sharing enjoyment (and more, deeper, feelings), and enjoyment is often shared through music.

So, if we're ever interested in paying for anything with music, it's the opportunity to share music better. That's the real, timeless, music business: giving people some opportunity to share some music, for which they will gladly pay something reasonable—just to ensure that opportunity.

When we want to own some music on a CD, it's because having a disc gives us more potential opportunities to share the music. When we want to have some music in mp3s, it's because having a digital files gives us other potential opportunities to share the music.

There are very few reasons to relate to music in terms of totally private purposes, without sharing. There are some—and I assume that most people have some bit of music that they like to listen to privately more than with others. But, even then, just because I like to listen to some song when I am alone doesn't mean I don't want to share that song with others—it's not really that private. At best, some music is kept truly private by some people in rare cases!

But, the rest of the time, we just want to share the fuck out of every piece of music we love!

My new SAD (song-a-day) diet

I started a new thing, what I call my SAD (song-a-day) diet.

Last week, I started a practice of writing and recording a song everyday. In the ideal, that would be all 7 days a week. Practically, I've got time blocked out on Monday–Thursday, so it may be more like 4 days a week.

On Monday last week, I ended up using my block of time to finish some rearranging and setup in HereJam studio. Then, Tuesday–Thursday, I wrote and recorded three new songs. Friday–Sunday, I also wrote a song / piece each day, but didn't recorded anything. And, today, I wrote and recorded another song / piece.

Given the constraints of this practice, one of the things I now find myself doing is remembering ideas for musical things I want to try—and writing and recording with those. So far, I've recorded a psychedelic pop song, a surf punk instrumental, a goofy pastoral with banjo and tuba, and an electronic funk piece based around the samples of dying audio chip's last sounds.

Here's some more background on why I started doing this, and what I've learned so far:

Over the years (since I was a kid, really) I've had a lot of days where I've written new music for hours and not recorded any of it. And—especially more recently, I've had a lot of other days where I spent hours fiddling with the same recording, over and over.

Between the time that I completed Err or Man and the beginning of this year, as I started preparing to record the next Ear Reverends' album, I realized that I was spending a lot of time waiting for big chunks of free time to write and record. And, then when I finally got those chunks, I felt a lot of pressure to get a lot done. And, so to relieve that unnecessary pressure, sometimes, I just wouldn't try to get anything done and would "goof off" and have fun in the studio (which worked temporarily to relieve the pressure).

So, I came to appreciate that all of this was a pretty extreme way of working, that was not really what I wanted. But, I was stuck in that pattern for a while and not sure what to do differently.

I know of a number of authors who write for a specific period of time everyday—either a set number of words, or a number of pages, or a number of hours. My cousin Lisa does this, and talking with her about it has been helpful. I also found Cory Doctorow's description of his practice, and the idea of leaving a rough edge, to be useful.


When I original started Wrong Notes, and recorded the Wrong Notes Music in 2004–2007, I thought I would use the blog format and ideal of posting daily to drive myself to write and record and post more music. But, I found that publishing / releasing creates its own pressures. And, altogether, the blog format doesn't encourage the kind of editing / curating that tends to become an essential differentiator between a "work" and a "practice."

So, with this current song-a-day practice, I'll release some things at some points, but I am not in any way thinking of each song / piece as "the next blog post."


A couple other observations:

Getting up in the morning and getting immediately into writing and recording is just really great. I don't get online or deal with stuff until after the morning session.

Stopping is hard. It's too much fun to stop in the middle of a creative moment. I am trying to stop "on time" everyday. Still working on that a bit.

Having a fixed time to work changes what I write and how I record it. My definition of "recording" for the SAD diet is pretty loose. I've been doing multitrack recordings everyday so far, but I am sure I'll write some stuff on paper or do a quick demo on days when I am writing something with more depth. So far, the songs / pieces I've written are simple in some ways—but, even so, the time limit forces me "marry" simplicity when I might otherwise tend to "fool around" with more elaborate options.

I don't usually write lyrics in the morning, unless they are carrying over from something in a dream. I've only recorded lyrics on one day so far (started in a dream). I'll probably start using lyrics written at other times (which times, I realize now, are generally at night).

All of the songs I've recorded so far are now "almost done." I know from past experience that there's potentially a big difference between almost done and done. I am not sure yet whether or when I'll finish these. Sometimes I think it's good to just leave them as is and keep moving forward—right now, that's the point in some sense: no going back and getting bogged down in something from the past / always being open to the next new thing. But, I'll see in a few weeks what's what.


If you've ever done something like this and/or if you have some practices that you find useful, I'd love to hear more about your experience.

@herejam at Twitter

The Ear Reverends are on Twitter at @herejam.

As part of February being the month when every musician in the universe started self-promoting and/or doing cool things on Twitter, I got on there too (actually, in November last year—and, hopefully doing the latter).

You may remember that I used to list my personal (@imjay) Twitter account on the about page. I still tweet there too, but I've made @herejam the official Ear Reverends' channel for cramming ideas into 140 characters. Typically, I like to say something once or twice a day about music or art, or about what's going on in the studio.

Also, unlike how I use my personal account (I follow only a few people I know well), @herejam works for me to connect with new people—especially other musicians, artists, fans, etc. So, if you're on Twitter, please give us a follow @herejam, and we'll follow you back as well!

This town ain’t big enough for the both of us

Music is so amazing in its reach across people and places and time. I always dig looking at this—and, the other day, just for kicks, I collected videos for 18 versions (many, covers) of the Sparks' song, This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us.

I've always been interested in Sparks (official site, Wikipedia). During the time when I was a kid and watched music videos on MTV, Sparks had popular videos for songs like I Predict and All Your Ever Think About is Sex.

In spite of my interest, I've never listened to them very much. But, over the past few months, I've gotten really into Sparks' latest album, Exotic Creatures of the Deep. So, I am listening to Sparks much more now. And that somehow led me to find all these Sparks videos of This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us on YouTube.

I knew that the Sparks' song, This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us (Wikipedia, fan site's story of the song) was a big hit in the UK. But, it's not one of the Sparks' songs that I ever heard more than once or twice—it was never as popular in the US.

Anyway, it's a cool song—and also a very archetypal Sparks song. Like, if you wanted to play someone one song, such that they'd have a good idea of what Sparks sounds like, I think this would be a good choice.

And, this is what makes it interesting both as a cover song, and as a song to see Sparks themselves play across the eras of the 70s, 90s, and past few years.

So, I didn't include absolutely every video of the song on YouTube. There were several 1974-era TV appearances with Sparks lip-syncing that I left out. And, there were a couple super low quality cover versions that I left out too. Also, I tried to put them in a meaningful sequence—there's a somewhat intentional progression there. Anyway, I ended-up (at this time) with these 18 videos:

(Finally, I'll note that I am always hoping that there'll be some interesting innovation with music players that allows us to rotate through different versions of songs we like. So, for example, imagine a player with a playlist item for This Town Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us that, each time that items comes up for play, a random version is selected, rather than the same exact track. . .

Tim Leary meets Billy Idol by Joey Ramone on 1993 Television

The 1990s start looking like a fictional past when you watch this video of Timothy Leary interviewing Billy Idol about the "cyber" future on a show hosted by Joey Ramone, that also features an interview with the band Television about their album from 1992.

This video is from a show called ABC in Concert—I never watched it (I totally tuned-out of TV during that era). The video is online as part of what's turning into an amazing resource, the Timothy Leary Archive, at the Internet Archive.

It's strange to see—a weird purgatory era—for Billy Idol, for the Ramones, for Television—for the web. I don't know what things were like in general for Tim Leary at that time (he rants a bit about still being seen as a "public menace" in the UK). His comments about cyber-culture are really insightful. But his appearance in this video—interviewing Bily Idol, nevertheless makes me think of the 1990s as being "out of time."

At just before 16:45 minutes, there's an interview with Television. It's neat to see them, at that time, as a band. The album they're promoting, Television (1992) is one that I rushed out and bought and listened to (because their earlier Marquee Moon is one of my all-time favorites—and I also am big fan of Tom Verlaine's albums in-between.) But, "Mars" was the only song I ever got into on Television.

Again, it's like it's "out of time." You draw a line between Marquee Moon and Tom Verlaine's current work, and Television (the album) maybe isn't even on that line.

(btw, we we're just turning-on some friends to Tom Verlaine's 2006 instrumental album, Around the other night. That gets played a lot around here.)

Anyway, here's the video:

Timothy Leary Interviews Billy Idol - In Concert with The Ramones (1993)

Err or Man music and images online

MP3s of all of the 20 pieces on Err or Man are now online!

Each of the 20 pieces from Err or Man now has its own page on the site. Each page currently features the corresponding "view" art from the Err or Man book. You can listen to each track on its page, or select from all of the tracks on the main Err or Man home page, as well.

This is an interim online release while I am still working on the bigger site upgrade, which is based around an integrated music / playlist player. After that launches, I'll also make lossless versions of all of the pieces available for download, and post additional images from the Err or Man book, as well as lyrics and other goodies.

Here are links to each page for the 20 pieces:


And this hereby concludes the 2008 portion of Wrong Notes. Now let's all have a happy new year!

British Library’s William Blake’s notebook

I am enjoying looking through William Blake's notebook online, seeing his drawing and where he wrote "The Tygre."

The British Library is currently exhibiting William Blake's notebook, and they now have it online as a virtual book, in their Turning the Pages™ viewer. (Go to that page and click the link to "William Blake's Notebook" to view it.)

The virtual book viewer is a bit unfortunate—it's pretty hard to use a computer mouse to simulate the physical motion required to turn the page of an actual book. (That will make more sense if you go try it yourself.) But, that said, it's more generally awesome that you can see each page of the notebook, magnify it and look at small details, and then there are also text and audio annotations / commentary that one can bring-up.

(There are also non-virtual / web / accessible versions of the books, which I'd normally link to out of principle, e.g., The Notebook of William Blake. But, having personally braved the technological oxymoron of the virtual book, I think these are the rare cases where it's worth it—you get much more of a "wow, they wrote that by hand, right there" feeling than in the web / accessible versions.)

Currently, there are actually 18 different books available via Turning the Pages, including Mozart's musical diary (which also has musical-audio annotations) and Lewis Carroll's original hand-written and illustrated Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which is especially cool to see!

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. . . the new music player is very coming soon and such . . .