There are things that I find tedious for which I am eventually grateful for the results.
At the time of this writing, I am in the studio on Project “Beneath the Mask.” And although it is with some hesitation (because any search of the internet on guitar will return hundreds of high school girls giving guitar lessons on classic riffs that rival the originators) that I am dusting off the guitars and bringing them into the studio.
One such dust collector is a Rickenbacker electric 12-string, which I keep hearing in my sleep. But I was resisting re-stringing it (it’s not for everyone). But after 15 years, it is probably time for a new set of strings. So I took the 90 minutes or so to restring it. Restringing is the easy part; it’s the tuning that I think has kept these guitars out of the mainstream and in the gifted hands of virtuosos like Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty and the late George Harrison.
I have to rely on tools to tune. Enter GuitarTuna. A quick search of the app store returned this baby. Not bad. But, I think I will be using some alternative tunings on the album. Better look for a chromatic tuner. There are a ton of them.
Anyway, I am not sure how luthiers do what they do. I would find the detail work of intonation too demanding for my attention span. Luckily, living on the edge of the forest has its advantages. I can go out and walk in nature and work the land, always assured of proper supervision:
During the recording of the last album, “Querida“, I recovered and used an old ‘friend,’ the Fender Telecaster guitar to try some ‘cues‘ on the title track. It always surprises me what a set of new strings can do for a guitar. It had been a few years since I have played the guitar (forsaking it for work with the Native American-style flute), so I wasn’t altogether confident about laying down tracks with it. But the results became my favorite, and title track at the last minute before going to press with the album.
“Project: Beneath the Mask”
Musical Equipment Notes
This time, as I return to the studio on a project with the working title, “Beneath the Mask,” I am consciously bringing the guitars with me. At the time of this writing, I am working on the first track, and have brought a wonderful sassafras flute in low A made by Leonard McGann of Lone Crow Flutes. I was dosing-off one night and heard in my mind’s ear the flute having a musical conversation with an electric guitar. The guitar licks were thick and smooth – thicker than the Telecaster might make. So I went for the Stratocaster — an American-made Texas Special with a double-coil pickup in the bridge position.
This particular guitar has been set-up by excellent luthier, Paul Stebner of Guitar Remedy in Orange County, California. Paul has done a lot of inspired work for me over the years. I found that usually, stock guitars require that work to play well, especially when purchased new from a retail store. Typically the necks are not set-up with the strings close enough for me, the intonation is not perfect, and the frets are rough and chunky.
I purchased this particular guitar at Guitar Center a dozen or so years ago. I can remember grabbing one like it off of the wall of guitars and plugging it in to a VOX AC30 amplifier. I loved the look of the guitar — the ash grain of the body showing through the red sunburst finish. But – it sounded just OK.
I put it down and went out and looked on the wall and there was another, just like it. I brought it into the practice room and plugged this one in. It was better, but I needed something else — something more — something to really justify the purchase.
Almost disappointed, I went out to look at the wall a third time, and way in the back of the store, I thought that I saw another Stratocaster like the first two. That’s a little unusual, even for Guitar Center. So, for the third time, I plugged a guitar into the AC30. “Oh, My!” I said to myself. “It sounds like chimes!” I couldn’t believe my ears.
I turned the guitar over to look at the finish on the back of the guitar; It was deeply scratched, perhaps by some customer who really wanted to rock-out while wearing an over-sized belt buckle.
The sales guy said, “That’s OK. Go ahead and buy it, and we’ll have another one shipped to you.”
I said, “No way! I’ll take this one — even though it has been mauled.”
We concluded the typical Guitar Center crapola deal by arguing whether or not Fender includes a case at no extra charge, and whether the dings would be discounted. True-to-form, they wouldn’t budge until I produced the Fender catalog that clearly showed the instrument shiped case-included.
Paul half-surprised me by saying, “this is the best neck that I have ever seen on a Fender guitar; it’s virtually perfect!”
“I know,” I said.
“And, by the way,” Paul continued, ” I was able to buff-out some of the scratches, but not all of them.”
Anyway, the instrument didn’t disappoint.
This may sound a little stupid (it does to me), because as a boy, I would have done anything to be able to afford a guitar effects pedal like a Fuzztone. I can’t tell you how many hours my friends and I would browse the now-gone, iconic Ace Music in Santa Monica. The two brother-owners, Hank and Jack were patient with us, knowing we had little money to spend. But I guess they instinctively knew that little boys do find ways to get their heart’s desire and would eventually be back with the cash — and boys become men with even more cash! And over the years, we did return – until it was gone.
Nowadays, I do my browsing on-line; I don’t have the desire to argue at Guitar Center, and TrueTone Music in Santa Monica is not (unfortunately) convenient.
I was browsing zzounds.com to replace a defunct 20 year-old MXR Dynacomp Compressor and remembered, “I used to have a bunch of pedals … I wonder if they survived the move from California?” I went to the storage locker and found the old pedals – cobwebs inside of the cases and a patina of age on the surfaces. I checked the 9 volt batteries; surprisingly there was no leakage or corrosion and the Blues Driver battery still worked! So I arranged the effects to start this project:
The result? I plugged-in the ‘Strat,’ tuned it, queued-up a rhythm track and hoped for the best:
Notes on the “Why”
I have adopted a habit of pondering the why’s of what I do. The how’s do not seem as important any more. I think that dragging-out the guitar and effects pedals again repairs some of the threads of time in the fabric of my life. My childhood musician friends are mostly gone. My father, who was at once an obstacle and enabler of my musical pastimes is long-gone.
These guitar riffs seem to penetrate the fog of time and reconnect me to whom and what I once held dear. I don’t fight it; I embrace it. I let my heart break. And in doing so, the music oozes out like sap from a cut pine branch.
Notwithstanding the vaulting emotion of the last paragraph, I have just hung-up the telephone with my Mother who has informed me,
“You know why you started to play the guitar, don’t you? It was because of me! Your father and I bought matching souvenir guitars on a trip to Mexico, and your father had the bridge replaced at Wallach’s Music City (Sunset and Vine) so that I could play it.
You took the guitar away from your own mother as I was playing scales one day saying that I ‘was so tone-deaf that you couldn’t stand it any more!'”
Mother is right. If I hadn’t commandeered that guitar, I am sure that I would have even more ‘issues’ than I do today. She played much worse than she sings — and sources close to her would suggest that she sings like the character Lili Von Shtupp (played by Madeline Kahn) in Mel Brooks‘ feature film, “Blazing Saddles!”
Project: “Querida“ (Una Persona Amada)
Trusting the Muse
There is a scene in the re-imagined “Battlestar Gallactica” series (2004 – 2009) in which the Captain Kara “Starbuck” Thrace character (played by Katee Sackhoff) sits at a piano bench with a disheveled composer as she spars with him about the worth of an emerging composition. The man at the piano turns to it and bolsters himself by saying something like, ‘trust that the music will come.’
I think that I feel something similar at the end of every project as I step up to the ‘void’ in an attempt to perceive whether anything musical appears. I don’t worry anymore — I just trust that it will.
I can’t mention Battlestar Gallactica without paying respect to the music of Bear McCreary, whose score haunts me (in a good way). Bear’s ‘cues’ make a great series superb, and vocalist Raya Yarbrough is breathtaking as she sings in what may be Sanskrit.
Remembering Monte Zucker … Again.
Anyway, as I return to the studio for another album that features the Native American-style flute with some orchestrated accompaniment, I find myself thinking again of my late photographic mentor, Monte Zucker. I am not alone in this pass-time. Most of the people who met Monte mention him as often as possible. I am just one of the more recent devotees. Great photographers like Clay Blackmore, Hanson Fong, Robert Lino, Joe Bruch and Michele Gauger have much more time-in-grade in their affection for Monte.
One of the highlights of the second half of my life was studying location photography with Monte in the Yucatan. I don’t think that in the hours outside the photographic intensive that we ever talked about photography. We would joke and chat about love and relationships and the things that we found important at the time.
Finding a Distant Sweetness
So, as I remember Monte with affection, the music turns sweet and perhaps a little exotic. In Scottsdale (the last time I saw him), he was soon about to learn that he was dying of pancreatic cancer. I thought something was wrong – he seemed tired and swollen. But all he could talk about was being in love! And love runs through the tracks of this album.
The album art for “Querida” is an image that I made in the Yucatan with Monte and my friend and photographic master, Michele Gauger:
Embracing Instruments Formerly-used
Hejaz Scale Flute
Like many people who play the Native American-style flute (or guitars for that matter), I have inadvertently become a sort of collector of the instruments. After obtaining a number of must-have items, we look for something perhaps more exotic or unique.
When it comes to flutes, if I want exotic, I turn to Russ Venable. In this album, for the track “Ana Bahibbik,” I used one of his maple flutes tuned to a Mid-Eastern, or Freygish scale. I may be altering reality as I look to the Mid-East through decidedly Western eyes, but to me the track reminds me of warm nights, urgent love and belly dancers. The result was a lot of fun to produce:
Adding the Electric Guitar
Growing up, my friends and I could think of nothing more important than owning a Gibson ES-335 guitar. It wasn’t quite as cool as Chuck Berry’s ES-345 stereo guitar, but it was just as unapproachable. We scoured the pawn shops in Los Angeles on the improbable chance of finding one, but in the end would have to settle for something less dear.
When I was older and more flush, I got my ES-335 and loved it for a few years, but I found that by that time, my guitar-playing style was served well by a Fender Stratocaster and later, the Fender Telecaster. I wasn’t particularly looking for country twang, but a chain of events including befriending a guitar virtuoso from Tennessee and filling-in on a country music bandstand for a vacationing Oklahoman lead guitarist sent me down a road that led to Fender if not more.
I haven’t guitar played steadily for years — a psychological disorder that I acquired after dodging beer bottles thrown at the stage and being jumped in the parking lot after several gigs manifested itself in an aversion to holding the instrument for more than a few minutes. It is probably the reason that I gravitated so quickly to the Native American-style flute for my musical outlet. Flute aficionados in my experience tend to be a bit more docile than country music fans. But those quizzical memories are fading now, so this week, I went over to a friend’s who was keeping an American Fender Nashville B-Bender guitar for me to retrieve it and to see if I could still make it ‘sing.’
I used this pretty baby for the album on the track, “Querida.” For the track, I ran the guitar through a Roland preamp on a very clean setting. I was surprised how tasty the guitar sounded — it needed very little post-processing and appears on the track with a little echo and reverb, but little else in the way of signal conditioning. The guitar can also be heard as I make a few rhythm flourishes after the solo. On the track, an F# Native American-style flute made by Colyn Petersen has a dialog with the ‘Tele.’
All-in-all, the “Querida” album, along with the last (“In Another World”) have been made during a period of rest and relaxation. The music to me presents itself with more hope mixed in with longing than an album such as “Seeking Balance,” which is filled with plaintive flute calls that ask musical ‘questions’ without waiting for or expecting the answers.
I plan to release “Querida” on February 14, 2013.
1. Cezannesque – Fm Black Walnut Flute by JP Gomez, Vocal by Neysa (with special thanks).
2. Princessa – Low Dm Lacewood Flute by Geoffrey Ellis.
3. Drift Away – “Deep Blue C” Diatonic Scale Flute by Steven DeRuby, Low Dm Flute by JP Gomez.
4. Opaline – Fm Black Walnut Flute by JP Gomez.
5. Rondo – Gm Blue Ponderosa Pine Flute by JP Gomez.
6. Cisne – Low D Flute by JP Gomez.
7. La Huera – “Deep Blue C” Flute by Steven DeRuby
8. Ana Bahibbik – E Mid-East Scale Flute by Russ Venable.
9. Cantinela -“Deep Blue C” Flute by Steven DeRuby.
10. Ruby’s Love – F# Babinga Flute by John Stillwell.
11. Twilight in Tulum – Generic Pan Flute, “Deep Blue C” Flute by Steven DeRuby, Conch Shell by Peruvian Shaman, Don Francisco.
12. Cita – F# Yellow Cedar Flute by Colyn Petersen.
13. Querida – F#m Yellow Cedar Flute by Colyn Petersen. Fender Nashville B-Bender Telecaster Guitar. Vocals, Bill Leyden.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.
Chauncie used to bound in the snow. This morning, before beginning our walk, she paused to reflect. Or maybe she was just looking for a javelina (a wild pig).
I love train sets — everything about them. Many of my school-mates had Lionel “O” gauge train sets; I preferred the smaller “S” gauge made by American Flyer. American Flyer “S” gauge was smaller and (to my eye) more realistic than “O” gauge, but bigger than the dainty “HO” sets.
Nothing American Flyer made was ever unimportant to me, and it was my goal to inspire my late Father to gift me as much as possible — even if it were (and so it would be) years in the doing. Maybe it is a world away, but the thrill of that first set is still palpable for me today:
My prized-possessions were:
The Cow on Track, and
These required some wiring to be done, including placing an insulation pin in the track to control start/stop of the train.
The trains that my brother and I shared for so many years were given away to cousins decades ago.
But not long after I moved to Arizona on the edge of the Prescott Forest, I was at the composer’s chair and the house seemed to be vibrating ever-so-slightly. I took off the headsets and could hear a rumble. This was unusual to me, because Prescott is mighty quiet, especially for a city boy.
I went to the balcony and saw it — and suddenly my brother and late Father seemed to be at my side and I was 11 again!
The train, the train!
Release Notes and More: “In Another World”
I am happy to announce the release of “In Another World.” This New Age album is filled with lush, orchestral melodies, exotic, subtle rhythms and accents made on the Native-American-style flute. I find the completed collection to be ideal for meditation and healing; I think you will too!
In Taiwan, the 7th lunar month is referred to as ‘Ghost Month.’ My friends from that island-nation advise me:
“…You don’t want to travel during Ghost Month! You should make offerings to your ancestors and don’t let the ghosts who are roaming the Earth this month learn your address!”
I’m not particularly superstitious, but in the coming years, I may take a little more notice of Ghost Month.
I was minding my own business recording improvisations on the Native American-style flute for this album. Then along came the 7th lunar month -July and August this year (2012).
I took a short road trip during which every appointment was suddenly rescheduled out of the month. I started to think that the Ghost Month advice may have some merits.
When I returned home to Arizona, disappointed by the drop in personal productivity, I attempted to salve the feelings by getting out the Fender Stratocaster guitar and recording some musical passages. The recordings would eventually find their way onto the “Faded Splendor” track. I tried adding strings (violin, violas and cellos) — and the whole album shifted. The melodies became more lyrical and complex. One track followed another in quick succession until the album was a collection of compositions, rather than a series of Native American-style flute improvisations.
Passing Through the Portal
When I was done, I knew that I had crossed a threshold (into another musical world) through which I may not return. Next year, I will be less inclined to ignore Ghost Month and more apt to pass it with a wink and a smile as I compose.
Listen to “In Another World” by clicking on the arrow below:
I used flutes from the following craftsman:
Dedication: Chris Will
Kitty & Creek Norris
All tracks © 2012 by Bill Leyden. All rights reserved.
Images: Damon Allen
My Friend, Shayde Christian
Suddenly, after a day of shooting his film, “Painting in the Rain,” he apparently decided to come over to view the images and was peeking around my front door:
“Hey, man…is that your music playing?” Shayde asked.
“Hey, I really like what’s going on there. Does that mean that you have access to all of the tracks?” he continued.
Not yet knowing where he was going with the line of questioning, I fell into his logic:
“Sure, I do! It’s multi-track software.”
“Hey, if you’d take the flute tracks out of it, it would be perfect!”
It has long since become a running joke between us, but at the time I felt a flush run upwards through my body and with as much humility as I could summon, I informed Shayde that:
“Yes, I could do that, but, you know, I am kind-of known to the people who listen to me as a Native American-style flute player!”
Oh! I’m sorry! I just meant that for my movie, I could really use the orchestration part, and not the flute — it doesn’t fit my story!”
“Right,” I mustered.
Three years later, Shayde chose the title track from the album, “Beloved” for a poignant scene in his feature, “Painting in the Rain.” The flute punctuates the scene perfectly. He put together the Beloved video as a thank you:
I have enjoyed what I hope is a good joke so much that I have extended it to my Native American flute player friends, including Wolfs Robe, whose traditional albums are almost exclusively played on the Native American flute.
Learning to Appreciate the Taiwanese “Ghost Month”
I have several dear friends who hail originally from the island of Taiwan. I have learned over the years that it is probably a good idea to lie low during Ghost Month. I used to take this with a grain of cultural salt, but as I age to perfection, I find myself attempting to be more flexible.
Every now and then, when I speak to someone new that I have met from Taiwan, I will ask about Ghost Month. Immediately, the response is something like,
“How do you know about Ghost Month? You’d better be careful during that time — a lot of strange things happen!”
For the benefit of the reader, I quote from Wikipedia:
“Taiwan: Ghost Month
Traditionally, it is believed that ghosts haunt the island of Taiwan for the entire seventh lunar month, when the mid-summer Ghost Festival is held. The month is known as Ghost Month. The first day of the month is marked by opening the gate of a temple, symbolizing the gates of hell. On the twelfth day, lamps on the main altar are lit. On the thirteenth day, a procession of lanterns is held. On the fourteenth day, a parade is held for releasing water lanterns. Incense and food are offered to the spirits to avoid them visiting homes and spirit paper money is also burnt as an offering. During the month, people avoid surgery, buying cars, swimming, and going out after dark. It is also important that addresses are not revealed to the ghosts.”
This year, I did not exactly follow the precepts of Ghost Month. I traveled to LA, where all appointments that I had arranged were unusually rescheduled out of the month. And I got a speeding citation in Jerome, AZ for blazing through town at 30 mph at night. At that moment, I was telling my passengers, who had suffered a motorcycle breakdown that afternoon that it was probably Ghost Month that contributed to the new tire blowing out 20 miles from civilization. They remarked that they would no longer show any disrespect for Ghost Month.
“In Another World”
I had begun the album, “In Another World” well-before the 7th lunar month this year. And by the time that I was working on the third song, Ghost Month had begun and suddenly the album took a sharp detour.
The first inkling that I had was during the recording of the song, Redona Me. The song starts in C minor, a key I don’t usually use, and pulses slowly until the melody begins to soar longingly — hopefully toward an unseen destination. There is no flute present (I thought of Shayde and smiled to myself).
By the time that I had completed the track, Contessina, I knew something was going to be different. Then, when I finished the first mix, I sent a copy to Shayde for his input. True to form, he said something like,
“This is the best s— you have ever done! The album is not just a collection of songs – these are compositions with a theme!”
Not content, he continued,
“I don’t know if this is good advice for you or not, but I like your new stuff so much, that I think you could lose a track or two of those flute solos.”
I asked, “Oh, you mean I should just take some flute out, and it will be perfect?”
“Hey, man,” Shayde quickly responded. “I know how you feel. Do you know how many of my own scenes that I have had to cut from my scripts?”
So, I continue to mix — it is yet to be seen whether I’ll be able to heed his advice with grace. Maybe the ghosts with whom I have tried to make piece will guide the way.
In the days following this original post, I received a three-page write up with Shayde’s comments. Nestled in the thoughts on transitions and old-Bill vs. new-Bill, there was a question about the track, “Redona Me:”
".... "Redone Me.” What is the 6th note in the melody, a 6th? It grabs me by the heart. And there’s a passing tone around 1:10 that just keeps me so off balance...."
I was more than willing to give him a heart-felt response:
“After an intro of alternating Cminor and Ab major chords, the melody starts its lift on the 5th (G) of the Cminor Chord. The melody then runs up the the scale of the minor chord passing through the 6th note to the octave, where the chord changes to Ab. The octave G note, which was the 5th of the Cmin chord then becomes the major 7th of the Ab chord. So, it would appear that the Ab maj 7 chord is moving you as it almost appears out of nowhere.
The melody then ‘relaxes’ back a full step to the F note as the chord progression reaches for the Bb major chord. The F note is the 5th in the Bb major chord, thereby strengthening the resolve of the longing in the initial melodic reach by resting at a major triad (F/Bb/D).
At about 1:10, the melody and the chord both rest briefly at Bb again. The melody then raises 1/2 step to the B natural, either implying a G7 chord or a Bb Add B chord that transitions to the Cminor chord again. This tension is storing the energy to lift to the next melodic vault.
I am sure that answered the question.
I was surprised and pleased to receive an email from music reviewer and master wood craftsman RJ Lannan in February, 2012 which read:
I am one of the reviewers at Zone Music Reporter. For some strange reason I believed I had a copy of Beloved. I clearly remember the girl on the white bed. But I have looked everywhere and I can find no record of you sending me something. May I impose on you for a review copy? Thanks in advance.
R J Lannan
In fact, because the music that I record in large part is my attempt at personal healing by creating an aural diary, I typically do not promote or send out copies of the albums to reviewers. And I had sent no copy of Beloved to anybody except my dear friends, Kitty and Creek Norris.
But for some time, I have been a fan of The Sounding Board by RJ Lannan and Binkelman’s Corner by Bill Binkelmen, which are music review columns published by ZoneMusicReporter. So it was a bit of a rush to see that here in June RJ Lannan had decided to review “Beloved,” one of my favorite projects. He had this to say:
[reprinted from http://zonemusicreporter.com/recording/viewreviews.asp?rvwbrd=2&rvwbrdpstn=1&rvwbrdcmmt=981]:
I love my writing job because I never know when a surprise will arrive in the mail in the form of great music. This time it is flutist Bill Leyden‘s latest creation, Beloved. For some unknown reason I have been receiving lots of flute music is the last two years; De Maria, Adams, Finzer and many more. Leyden’s music is powerful, yet remains subtle throughout the album of fifteen songs. There are some haunting solo performances as well as multi instrumentals. The light, synthesized orchestral accompaniment of many of the songs is filmy, weightless and does not impede the flow. Where the Hammond organ came from, I’ll never know. Furthermore, there are many Native American flute influences throughout, but that is not in fact the main theme. It sub-title could be something like “things you love” or “a musical journey in my life so far” of the things that I love. In any case, the gentle music is very additive and just the right medicine to calm the spirit. I beg indulgence with my Spanish title translations.
Beloved, the title tune opens the album with a sultry blend of haunting flute and back ground strings. It is s slowing pulsing melody, a heartbeat of passion if you will. There is a drifting quality to the music, a free-floating sense of a heart wandering about and then, returning to the point of origin, to return to safety perhaps.
Rel[oj] de la Vida (The Clock of Life) is the music of a solo wooden flute with its wondrous echoing sound and organic sense. I could hear the music reflect off canyon walls and through the forests as the mountains counted the seasons with their own sense of time. Man has yet to adjust his own spiritual timepiece to such magnificence.
The crash of ocean waves opens the song The Wake I Left. Synthesized background and flute verse balance in a song of inner directed refection. Like the sea, the tune does have a noticeable ebb and flow that slows down the heart long enough to permit retrospection.
Gueve del Tosoro (The Treasure Cave) is a solo piece that notes the history of a mysterious place in the south of Spain. You travel the coast road until you reach La Calla de Moral and take a right turn. The cave is one of the few carved by the sea and has stories of great fortune left by ancient conquerors. The treasure may actually be the blissful beauty that surrounds the area. Bill’s flute snakes along the paths and ends up somewhere in the hills where the legends and splendor abide.
Second Growth seemed so appropriate on the day of this writing. The storm came in quickly, and with a cleansing wash covered everything around me. The air was fresh and pure after its passing and everything seemed renewed. The leaves were greener, the irises were a brighter purple and the sky was study in blue contrast. Bill’s use of sinewy violin, gentle drones and an echoing flute promised second growth that was palpable.
Ya Habibi may be Arabic for loved one and so carries the title in a Middle Eastern themed solo flute tune. Though the arid wind blows and the empty desert freezes in the nighttime, the warbling intro and peaceful melody reminds me that there is no sun hot enough to desiccate the power of love. And no distance is too great to try to separate the heart of a lover from another.
Bill Leyden has at least forty albums that I know of. He is a master of the Native American flute and his music is intricate, emotional and peaceful. His dogma is that once we understand the theory of the Incans who believe that our body is surrounded by a special energy, than we can use the knowledge to heal in extraordinary ways. His music has made me a believer.
|Rating: Very Good|
(Reviewed by RJ Lannan 6/22/12)
As I read the review, I was astonished at how well RJ understands the story behind the Beloved album, as he put it in words that go beyond a mere description to a level where the emotion and ‘voyage’ of the track and its place in the album are masterfully conveyed.
Thank you, RJ!
Stumbling Upon Neysa
I had begun a project with the working-title, “Star Babies” just prior to proceeding into the California Mojave Desert on a video assignment for The Light Body School. Linda, the dean of the school said to me, “I want you to interview Neysa (KNEE-sah) – she has a great story – be sure to get together with her!”
Neysa’s reputation precedes her … she is like the morning desert wind: cool but elusive; and indeed it took me three days to get her in front of the camera. But when I did, I knew that it was going to be special and that I was in the right place. She did a heart-touching interview with the caveat that she had not answered the question that I had asked. Realizing this, she sat next to a reflecting pool and said, “I’ll continue, but do you mind if I sing to collect my thoughts?”
“Go right ahead,” I said.
As I heard what she did next, I dropped what I was doing, waded into the reflection pool with a microphone in-hand, clipped it to her and started the field recorder and the video. The result was the track “Ajna” on this album.
I asked her several weeks later, “Neysa, in what language are you singing?”
“I don’t know — I channel it in!”
Loving the answer that she gave I continued, “Would you be interested in a collaboration on an album called ‘Star Babies?’”
“Oh, Bill. You’ve read me so right — I’m such a Star Baby — I would love to do a ‘Col-lab’ with you. I had no idea you were a sculpturer of sound!”
It took a couple of months to find Neysa in Joshua Tree, California where I recorded her, but the results have mesmerized me ever since.
I am a fan of all of her tracks, but the one that I call “Celestial Lullaby” is one of my favorites. It was the last song of the session and we both knew it. I was humming the melody from the prior track that we had recorded and she said, “That’s a fun idea … I think I’ll hum a little bit.” I started the recorder again.
I hope you will enjoy these tracks as much as I do. Let the spirit of mystery and discovery wash over you as you listen.
And check out the album on BandCamp.com (where your purchase is always voluntary but nonetheless appreciated):
In the desert, I was glad that I had a digital SLR close-at-hand. I grabbed it during the session and captured this informal video showing how spontaneous Neysa is while recording: