Speaking of Inspiration

I’m so effin busy, this post has been half written since back during the Xanadu Days.  But I finally finished it.  Enjoy!

What inspires you?

I’ve had my head full of Muses and heavenly Inspiration for the past few weeks, you see. And of course the moment anything stirs that messy glorious soup wherein my creative juices smolder and bubble, percolate and stew, my first thoughts turn to music. Yes, there’s this writing thing. And the photography thing. And now this whole producing thing…but music is the first thing I think of.

I know. I realize that I am writing about music. Hush up and read on.

A while back I wrote about some of my favorite songs. Now, with all this talk of inspiration, I thought I’d share with you all some of the musicians who inspire me as a musician.

I started my musical career as a classical guitarist at the age of 6, so that’s where I’ll start. Probably one of the most amazing classical guitarist I’d ever seen was Andres Segovia.  I used to watch him and try to copy all the mannerisms and fingering that he would do on the few occasions I was lucky enough to see him on television.  I couldn’t find any videos of him playing these two songs I practiced endlessly back then, so here’s a few talented performers doing their own rendition: Malaguena and Aranjeuz Mon Amour .  I’d never say I ever got it down as good as these guys, but I rocked it in my own right.

The next instrument I turned my eye to was the bass.  In all honesty, I switched to the bass because it was 1. in high demand, especially for a girl and 2. I didn’t have to concentrate and think quite as much as I did playing classical guitar.  It allowed me to do something while playing that I never got to do, and that was just groove.  Go with the flow.  Feel the music, and improvise.  Classical guitar has tons of improviation potential, if you are very very awesome.  Otherwise it sounds like crap.  Bass, on the other hand, is far more forgiving, at least for me.  My inspiration for the bass is the inimitiable Gordon Sumner, heretofore referred to by his more commonly known name, Sting.  His bass lines for The Police were simple, elegant, playful, and not overly showy.  Solid, as my friend Mike aka @drnormal would say.  I once read an article he did for Bass Player magazine back in 2000, where they asked him about the importance of space when playing the bass. He responded:
“For me, the sound is only half of music – the space between the notes is also vitally important. I gave a speech at Berklee College of Music a couple years ago and talked about silence. As musicians, all we do is create a frame for silence, because silence is the perfect music.”
That concept really resounded for me.  Suffice to say, there’s a heck of a lot of Police in my bass practice repertoire.
I have lots of other instruments I dabble casually in; included in that list is the saxaphone, the drums, in particular the bodhran, and various flutey bits.  None of those are instruments I’d consider myself  particulary inspired by any one performer, so my last entry has nothing to do with an instrument, except perhaps voice – truly a marvelous instrument in its own right, to be sure.  Despite the jabs I most certainly will receive from friends and readers about writing a single music-related blog post without mentioning Sarah McLachlan, I’ve got to include her.  She’s freaking brilliant, talented in a hundred different ways, and uses her powers to create amazingly good for people everywhere. and female musicians in particular.  Sarah McLachlan is truly an amazing artist, and her inspiration to me is what you can do with music.  She’s proved you can change the world with it, between her philanthropic work and the Lilith Fair (you did hear it’s coming back this year, right?  Check the website I linked right there!)  I mean seriously, can you possibly watch that damn ASPCA commercial without bawling?  I can’t.  So unfair.
I was originally going to end with Sarah there, but it occurred to me that there was one other musician who truly inspires me with her absolute dedication to her own flavor of the craft, her  unrepentant refusal to conform, and her unique lyric patterns which constantly fascinate me.  Tori Amos will never fit into any predetermined box or genre, slamming out anger, pain, love and betrayal from a straddled piano bench.  A musical prodigy at age 5, she was asked to leave the music conservatory she was studying at when only 11.  Even then, she refused to be put into a musical box, and has pioneered ever since.

Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant, there is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks. – Johann Gottfried Von Herder

The Fair Returns.

I have very important news to tell you, interwebs.  You best sit down.



So, I tend to scoff at screaming squealy fangirl/fanboi displays.  And when I say tend to, I mean seriously people, have some dignity, would you?  Just because someone has achieved success in music or film, doesn’t mean they are any better a person that you or I.  Assuming you and I aren’t serial killers or pedophiles or psychotic lunatics, of course.

(Damn.  Now I’m gonna get google hits for pedophiles and serial killers.  One can never win this google war, fer fuck’s sake.)

Now, mind you, I have my favorite public figures.  And as you may or may not know, one of the people on top of that list is Sarah McLachlan.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned her?  Once or twice?  No?  Lies!  You OBVIOUSLY never read my blog, EVER.

Yes, so I’m a big Sarah fangirl.  I think she’s not only talented, and driven, but she gives of herself and goes out of her way to help women and children and puppies and kittens.  You’ve seen the ASPCA/BCSPCA spot she did?  Yeah, I get teary EVERY TIME, dammit.  Hello, manipulation….  But I don’t get swoony-all-over-shit-and-be-generally-pathetic when she comes to town.  Oh no sirree.  I buy my ticket, and bask in her awesomeness, frame my ticket stubs, travel to Vancouver BC just to visit the Nettwerk Records offices, and nearly get kicked out of places for taking a bajillion pictures of her.

No, because I’m an amateur PHOTOGRAPHER.  Get your mind outta the gutter, interwebs.  Just cause I mentioned …oh never mind.  And hey, there’s lots of great bands on the Nettwerk label.  Like…um…hmm…like….huh.

No no really, I kid.  Like Ladytron, Guster, BNL, Jars of Clay, Manufacture, Delerium, Severed Heads, Skinny Puppy, etc  to name a few that I like off the top of my head.

So of course I’m on Sarah lists, and I get Sarah notifications. And because of this, I have news, interwebs.  NEWS OF THE GREATEST IMPORT.  If any of these apply to you:

1. You like Sarah Mchlachlan

2. Enjoy indie women’s music

3. Think girl rockers kick ass

Then hold on to your hats, interwebs.  Sit down.  Take a deep breath.


Yes, Lilith Fair, the paragon of women’s music festivals, will be hitting the tour maps in 2010.  Last time, I followed it for three days, from Portland to the Gorge and back.  Three days of Erica Badu, and Natalie Merchant, and Tara McLean (who gave me a free ticket to the portland date!), and K’s Choice and Suzanne Vega and The Pretenders and Dar Williams and Bonnie Raitt  and and andand!  It was three days of pure hedonistic drunken women’s music bliss.  I can’t even imagine who will be on the bill this time.  Let the speculation begin!  Plus, we all know that Portland has traditionally been one of , if not THE first stops, because Sarah loves Portland.  I know, she told me.  There was this dream, and…


Never mind.

Now I’m not saying I’m gonna get all squealy and screamy and stuff…But when I heard this news of awesomeness I did let out a huge SQUEEEE!!  of happiness.  In the privacy of my own home.  Where no one can see me.

Don’t tell anyone, ok?

Can I buy tickets yet?

A challenge.

I try to be a good blogger.  As such, I take time out to review my blog.  You know, read it.   For my dear interwebs’ sake.  Making sure my stuff it still as funny as when I wrote it (it usually is), that I’m staying on message based on my About page (I mostly am) and that it’s all true (uh, sure.  Mostly).  Not because I think I’m hilarious and crack myself up, oh no.  Not that!   Not because I enjoy the heck out of my stuff!  I do it for YOU.  For my lovely, kind, intelligent readers, who evince such good taste as to have my blog in their blog feeds and aggregator-type gadgetry and such.  Thank you readers!

So I was checking out my About page, and I noticed that I said how much music was important to me, and that I’d most likely be blogging about it a bunch.

Except…well…I haven’t.  Have I?  Not really, no.  I checked. Out of 140-odd blog posts, I have a total of 4 posts under my music category.  FOUR.  WTF, me? Seriously?  That’s like…6%!  Music oughta be way higher than that, right?!


You can tell I’m perplexed. Music is so important to me. It has always been there, sometimes in the background, but most of the time a central part of my memories. It was a constant in my life, from the Turkish songs and operatic stuff my dad would sing to me as a little tot, to the 60′s and 70′s music that I would groove to with my mom as a kid. My mom and I would bond over music a lot, until I hit my teens and veered off into the punk, industrial and alternative stuff I preferred as I moved into adulthood. My mom, on the other hand, remained solidly in her top 40 R&B stuff. Pshaw. (ok not totally pshaw, some of it is ok I guess. Meh.)

Anyway! I intend to redress this EGREGIOUS oversight. Tout de suite. Witness:

I think about music a lot.  No really, a LOT.  I like talking about it, and thinking about it, and listening to it, and playing it, and sometimes even creating it.  I find it nearly impossible to drive without music playing.  If I don’t have some sort of musical pursuit in my life, there is something missing, a large gaping hole in my existence.  In case you’re wondering, the current venture is DJ school, which is progressing quite nicely, thank you very much.

One topic I think about often is this:  if I had to pick a song as my ‘theme’ song, my go-to song, the one that in some way encompasses my life or my outlook in some way, what would it be?

My answer:  I can’t pick just one.  I’ve thought and I’ve thought, and tried and tried, and I Just.  Can’t.  Pick.  One.  Sorry, annoying FaceBook questionnaire application writers.  Sorry.  Two reasons why:

  1. I am far too multi-faceted a person for just one song to truly address all the different aspects of my life or outlook, and
  2. I identify with too many songs; if I pick this one, that means I leave out all the stuff I identify with from that one, and on and on it goes.

So I think I’ve narrowed it down to THREE.  I think.  Well maybe four.  But for now, let’s just say three, ok?  I reserve the right to add a couple more down the line.  (YouTube-y goodness linking ahead!  You’re welcome.)

  1. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy | Sarah McLachlan: Anyone who knows me knows I have to have a Sarah Mclachlan song in here.  It just goes without saying.  I can’t tell you how clearly this woman writes to my soul.  Or what a fangirl I am.  But to pick one…this is it.  No question.
  2. Orpheus | David Sylvian: I remember the first time I heard this song.  Forever thanks to my friend Ariana, who lives in Eugene now, for introducing me to the album this is on, Secrets of the Beehive.  This song lets me breathe when I can’t.  It taps into my emotions at a basic level, where words alone cannot reach.  The whole album is phenomenal, but something about this one…this is the one that came closest to being The One.  Note: David Sylvian was the lead singer of the band Japan, in case you’ve never heard of him.  Not that you necessarily heard of the band either.
  3. Solsbury Hill | Peter Gabriel (Sorry, couldn’t find a decent youtube vid of this one): If Sarah is my female singer/songwriter idol, Peter is my guy.   All of his stuff (with the possible exception of Sledgehammer and Big Time) is just beautiful*.  And he picks the best people to duet/collaborate with!  Every time my life has got me down, listening to this song reminds me that I’ve always come out better in the end.

There it is.  I’ve poured my musical soul out to you, my dear interwebs.  But herein lies a challenge:  Can you pick just one?  Well can ya…punk?

*Note: If you click on just one link in this list, click this one.  Trust me.  Do it.  Amazing video.

eTown PDX, or How I Nearly Got Ejected From the Schnitz.

If you know me, you know that my personal muse is Sarah McLachlan.  I regularly abase myself at her feet and quiver with inspiration and yes, lust.  Figuratively speaking, of course.  Oh if only…  Seriously, to my knowledge I have been to her show every time she has graced our beloved P-Town in the past 6-8 years or so.  I never miss a chance. 

So imagine my amazement and excitement, listening to NPR in late October/early November, when I hear that she’s going to be in town at some radio show taping PRACTICALLY ON MY BIRTHDAY.  omgomgomgomgomg!!!! 

After I peeled myself off the ceiling (you have to understand, I haven’t seen her in quite a while, I’ve been overdue!) I looked into the details.  She was going to be one of the guest performers on eTown, a radio show syndicated on NPR (I wake up to NPR these days, although I’m thinking of switching back to 94.7.  Gotta switch it up, right?).  Whatever, I thought.  eTown shmeTown.  It’s Sarah, and I’m goin.

So a friend and I got tickets, and showed up at the appointed hour, for a live taping of this eTown show.  Turns out it’s normally taped in Boulder, Colorado, but they occasionally go on the road and do live tapings in other cities.   Their mission statement is as follows: “etown’s mission is to educate, entertain and inspire a diverse audience, through music and conversation, to create a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable world.” Ok, cool. Nifty.  Very Portlandy, in fact.

I had no idea just how Portlandy.  Apparently they give out an award called an e-chievement award during each show.  Listeners from all over the country send in tales of individuals making a difference in their communites, and from these inspirational people they select one each show to win this award.  At this particular taping, they invited all the prior Portland winners of this national award to attend, and stand up as they were named.  I swear, half the audience were winners.  The hosts, Nick and Helen Forster, informed us that there are more e-cheivement award winners in the greater PDX area than ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY.  Yeah.  Portland Rocks.  I knew I loved it here for a reason!  The winner during that particular broadcast was Ed Kerns, who started the Lents Springwater Habitat Restoration Project.  The man is wheelchair bound, and he has single-handedly organized and fostered this fabulous effort, and one which impacts not just my city, but my neighborhood, in a truly meaningful way.  I love the Springwater Corrider Trail, and I bike it often during the summertime.

But back to Sarah and me nearly getting kicked from the Shnitz.  I mean…hello, iPhone right?  You expect me to sit in the presence of my muse, one of the elite few who musically inspire me, and not take pictures?  Me, amateur photog girl?  Shyeah.  Not gonna happen.  I gotta try.  A few fruits of my labor:

Sarah rockin' out!

Sarah rockin' out!

I've seen her so many times, I am familiar with her expressions.  This is my favorite.  No I am not a stalker.

I've seen her so many times, I am familiar with her expressions. This is my favorite. No I am not a stalker.

The whole cast.  Sarah's on the far right, tickling those ivories.

The whole cast. Sarah's on the far right, tickling those ivories.

So, here I am taking these amazing shots, from the very farthest back row no less.  Along comes Ms. Usher, who informs me in no uncertain terms that if I do not cease and desist immediately, I will be ‘asked to leave’.  Ah, the dreaded asked to leave line.  So I wrapped up the iPhone and my friends camera.  Sorry Sarah.  Sorry eTown.  Sorry Schnitz.  But you know what?  The pictures I took that night will mean way more to me than any professional swag I could ever hope to purchase.
The show is going to be broadcast during the week of Jan 21-Jan 27.  Listen for it.  I was there.
Coming up next: Hebrew 101, or How to Survive Hanging Out with Crazy Israelis.