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7-31-05  -- Sabbatical Update #1 - song archiving

I wish I could report that the sabbatical was over - the one to accomplish the fundraising, organizing, and new look for the web site that I wrote about back in May 13th - lord have mercy, that's been two and a half months. So here's an update of what I've done since then. Cringe, shame.

I have all the best intentions to do those things and I've done some of it, but the first thing I did was to start a new project unrelated to any of this, namely to archive my own music tapes. I've written many songs in my life and, for worse or for worser, I've got them on cassette tapes and I've produced some of this music and have copies of that on cassette and other types of tapes. Aside from the originals, there are copies of these tapes in other places, but more and more as the years march on there's been a little anxious bug in my brain that bothers me that all these tapes are deteriorating and I may loose it all or a lot of it - I don't even know any more what I'd loose - I only remember a few words here, a few notes there.

I started making these tapes because for years I'd improvised songs and almost everything I had done was completely lost, a superior method from the traditional Zen point of view - I get an image of the poet who wrote on leaves and put them in a stream to watch them sail away - but anyway, I decided to stop doing that.

I'm not really interested in music these days but still it has increasingly bothered me that this stuff wasn't properly archived. So as soon as I started my sabbatical to accomplish that other stuff I decided that while I'm doing that I'll archive this music - simple, no problem - just periodically turn a tape over or whatnot. I already had a computer set aside for it and tape recorder and the software kindly sent to me by one Randy Rand, an old recording engineer friend who's now a therapist in Missoula MT.

So I started doing it but it took a little more than just sticking the tapes in and turning on the computer. I had to talk to Randy and other engineers and musicians I know and test some tapes but finally I started - with the produced and composite and collection cassette tapes first and then the archival cassettes of all I'd written, the most recent material first, the last two songs recorded a year ago - working my way back to my first recordings in 1972. These are very poor quality tapes - all the early ones were recorded on little office tape recorders. I just made them so I'd have a record so to speak of what I'd written - not for distribution. And there were all sorts of time-consuming things I had to do like write stuff down and deal with damaged tapes and more and other till weeks passed and little else was done.

So now all of what I had on standard two track cassette tape is on hard disc and three separate DVDs kept in three separate locations - as wave files, the highest quality I could have used - way overkill and very very huge files. I have all the songs down now recorded flat with no EQing, no bass or treble enhancement so I can next go through them and redo them so they sound as good as possible which won't be that much better than what I've got probably - there's only so much that could be done with them - and then I'll put them on CDs - not to distribute but to archive. Next I've got to get to the multi-track and reel to reel type tapes but all of them I had regular cassette copies of so 99% of what I've done is archived well for now. And that little anxiety bug is gone. I feel great about it.

I turn to the right and look at the tapes in their shelve in my archive room, There are enough to stack to the ceiling. They represent about 1200 songs. There are probably twice that many forgotten before I started recording. Now they can deteriorate and I've still got them in other formats. And in the future, aside from archiving the other tapes, I plan to put some of this material on the Internet. Some of it's pretty neat - to me at least. But I remember how I used to play them on my guitar till people were jumping out of windows to get away. There were many individual songs and whole periods that make me wince - like when I got so into amplification that I sacrificed recognition of words and notes for feedback and power - oh well, it's also all written down so I can go through all that too some day and by the time I'm through there will be a book with all the words written out. And then I'll possibly be filled with remorse that to follow this compulsive completion drive I have, I've added to the mountain of junk of this world my own clods of crap.

But it won't matter - it's really all just a sculpture, all just preliminary work leading to a sculpture. In the end I plan to encase it all clear resin - the tapes, the discs, the paper and call it _Songs for the Super Nova_. Some people here and there would have heard a tune or two and a word or more, my poor long suffering friends more than their share, but it will all be forgotten along with everything else, less deserving than most anything else possibly, but in time equally standing in its place of forgotten-ness alongside Bach and Shakespeare.

I see these songs which I've written since I was in the fifth grade (a few of those old ones remembered such as _Wood is a Many Splintered Thing_) - I see them as I see everything I do - like sandcastles to use a familiar metaphor. That's not actually how I see everything I do, it's just metaphorically how I see what I do. How I actually see it is that I'm standing underwater with squeeze bottles filled with some sort of coloration and I make an underwater design that hovers for an instant before waves and currents take them away, dissolve them. I guess that's the way I see everything. The way I envision it, if what you do is so-so, you have your Wharholian fifteen minutes of fame and if you're truly great like Mozart you'll have thirty minutes. To get into this you've got to have some sense of time not being so fixed. Maybe Jesus and Buddha have forty minutes in this scheme of things. So, as I see it, my song from the late seventies, _In the Evening We Fuck Like Pigs_ will, at some point in the future, have its place alongside the buddha dharma as forgotten. Don't be upset. Buddha said the same, sort of. He didn't mention the pig-fucking song but he said Buddhism was subject to birth, old age, and death like everything else. He also said it would come again - pulsing like our breath in and out, alive and dead. Maybe that song won't return - except on the typewriter of one of those digitally precocious monkeys we've heard so much about.

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