Based on the poem I wrote called “Mystery of My Heart,” it is now a song I created for 50/90 called “I Need to Know.”
A lifetime is a long time to never have known you
Decisions were made without your consent
Birthdays and Christmas and favorite Sunday dinners
Counting the measures never ending torment
Photos displayed on a beachy white dresser
The cross prays for family unknown to the pastors
Strumming the coasts in search of heart’s answers
Mothers in hiding and cruel puppet masters
The child pays the price for adults who are wounded
The cycle must end in choices not taken
Letting go of love for what can never happen
Walking day to day with a soul deeply shaken
*Inspired by the #lyric #poem I wrote here.
I read this tweet (no, I haven’t quite deleted my Twitter account, although I do try to keep my peeks to a minimum), and this thought resonated with me. It explains so much. Especially when I realized I liked the sound of words, not the words themselves. This goes way back to the first grade. I loved the word “said” and the name “David” – the “d” sounds like a drum in my head.
When I met my father later in life (I may or may not have met him when I was a small child), he said, “All my kids play the drums.” Bingo! Then my life started to make sense. The more I connect with music (especially EDM – Electronic Dance Music in case you don’t know), the more I understand myself.
But when my literary agent told me my writing had a “poetic, almost lyrical rhythm to it,” I wondered what that meant. My father’s family were all musicians (guitarists, keyboardists, drummers, bassists, etc), going back to time immemorial, and my grandmother wrote poetry, I thought that must mean I was supposed to be a songwriter. Lyrics must be my thing. And so I enrolled in a modern musician certificate program starting with songwriting. I ended up realizing the difference between poems and lyrics and that it takes a special skill to translate those words into words that go with music. That was not my gift.
My gift that I’m exploring is sound design. I have so much to learn but I absolutely love it! One of my uncles was a sound engineer and so that makes sense. I may also be a storyteller, but not through lyrics. I have good family direction. My uncle said, “Now that you know you’re a Holmes, you’re gonna wanna pay attention to music.” And my dad said, “Keep writing. You must fulfill your destiny.”
And so I continue to juggle both. One gives me a break from the other, refreshing me for both. I may resist that, but I think I need that.
Today, the first Monday of the new year marks 4 weeks until the beginning of FAWM. And I think, for me this year, that means creating an album of remixes using some Latina House samples I’ve purchased from Sonic Academy.
Remember that TV show “Semi-Homemade” where Sandra, I think was her name, took some sort of dish already kinda made but then added her own touch to it? Well, that’s the kind of cook I am. In fact, I’m discovering that I’m also really digging the concept when it comes to music. At least for now.
So for the next 4 weeks, I’m going to be preparing for that. Gathering my samples, translating/rewriting lyrics, etc. for song ideas. That means I won’t have time to continue editing SNTG during the week. Instead, I’ll be posting my chapters on this blog over the weekend. Stay tuned for Chapter 1.
In the meantime, here’s a piece of a song that I’m working on remixing. Next step: recording the lyrics in English.
Watching videos of people enjoying the Christmas festivities at Disney World, well, I can’t help but feel a little jealous. With California’s strict reopening guidelines and Disneyland’s reluctance to open up any of the parks (i.e., Knott’s Berry Farm) until now, and the cruising industry’s slow road to recovery, Nevada getting close to lockdown again, well, I’m going a little crazy. I mean, who isn’t, right?
I’ve spent these last 8 months at home working on music, switching back and forth between Ableton Live and Logic Pro, the latter due to the 10.5 updates. And now with news of Ableton Live 11 coming out soon, well, there’s even more for me to dive into. But there’s also a lot of stress with all of that learning and it wears me out. So I’ve taken time to read and even work on a couple of manuscripts I’ve started writing. But nothing, really, after all these months, is really working toward peace of mind. Prayers and positivity help, of course, but when there’s an underlying or maybe not so underlying crisis happening, it’s really hard to escape.
I think many of us felt a bit of relief when Biden won, even if we weren’t big Biden supporters, if only because, in my case, I did not want to sit back and watch the lunatic, aka the Narcissist for another 4 years. His behavior since the election validates everything I know about Narcissists. And once you’ve had an experience up close with one, you don’t need a psychology degree to get it. Maybe you get it even more than somebody who has just studied it. Experience is a great teacher.
So with heavy handed governors issuing mandates (sometimes necessary, but, perhaps, not done in the best way) and a lunatic for a president, it’s like reliving a dysfunctional childhood all over again. The artist’s spiritual life and food and drink and rearranging the furniture a zillion times helps for a while, but I’m running out of coping mechanisms.
Today’s joy, though, was picking up my latest copy of Electronic Musician. Just reading the masthead made me smile, reminding me of my early days in San Francisco working in production on Mac User magazine. So cool to see my name listed as Production Manager. That took me to McGraw-Hill Publishing in Berkeley, but the most fascinating part of that was sharing the building with a music studio and seeing a glimpse of artists like MC Hammer getting out of the limo. The MC Hammer dancers lived in an apartment complex down the street from mine.
And so, when all is said and done and things are back to normal and I can cruise the high seas and relive my childhood at Disneyland, well, in the end, it’s all about the art, the music, and the spiritual journey I am on.
This time last year toward the end of 50/90, I got Ableton Live 10 Suite. I was curious about some of the more accessible features to me, at least more accessible than Logic Pro X, the DAW I’d been using since I started music production. But then Logic updated LPX to 10.5 with some amazing features. That left me reeling. Now which DAW would I use? Logic or Live? I’ve been scurrying between the two ever since, trying to find my definitive answer. I really want to commit to just one DAW.
Then this morning, my email was filled with announcements of Ableton Live 10 updating to Live 11. I got up at first light, made some coffee, and jumped on YouTube to watch some videos. When I mentioned on one that I couldn’t decide which one to commit to, he made a car analogy of which one do you feel more comfortable jumping in and taking for a spin (or something like that).
My problem is this: starting a Project in Logic Pro is like me grabbing the keys to my Black Challenger and heading down the open desert roads, radio blasting, wind blowing in my hair. I’m having a great time, thinking I know what I’m doing. Until I look at this shifty knob that’s just sort of added on for those who know what to do with it. And I don’t. And I’m afraid if I allow myself to try it out, I’ll blow it up.
Starting a project in Ableton, for me, is like cranking up a VW Bug (funny, they both happen to be made in Germany and my husband’s last name is German), and shifting it into gear (a bit awkward, but by the time I’m headed down the road, I’m feeling like I know everything about it, and I could even change the oil) – lol!
LP 10.5 gave us some cool Ableton features. Ableton 11 is giving us some cool LP features. So now I have no idea which DAW to commit to. But I need to figure it out before Ableton 11 is released. And before I buy Push2. I wonder if Push would push me over the edge.
My goal for 50/90 this year was to work on my craft, moving forward in my EDM skills using the new features of Logic Pro X 10.5 and Ableton Live. So now I’m pretty much wrapping it up, although 50/90 officially goes through September. I’ve received a lot of awesome feedback, both praise and critique and I cherish my 50/90 community.
I’ve created a playlist with the tracks I produced this year, although I’m working on one more collab, so I may or may not add it to the list, mostly because I’ve been keeping my collabs on the 50/90 site as they involve other musicians, and we’ve been kinda mixing genres just for fun. Or I may add them…
So here it is, the 50/90 playlist for 2020:
My approach for 50/90 this year isn’t to see how many songs I can bang out in 90 days. Instead, I’m trying to see how many different styles of “House” music I can “master” and, therefore, focus on the genre and the quality of my productions in Ableton Live and Logic Pro X.
So far, here are the 3 songs I’ve written/produced/posted on 50/90 via SoundCloud:
Keep It Movin’ (Classic House)
Space Disco Party (Space Disco)
Catch the Moment (Deep House)
Yes, it’s the 4th of July, Independence Day for the U.S. but also the first day of 50/90 (the write 50 songs in 90 days challenge). And so a poem came to mind during the night, raw, for sure, but, inspired by “The Making of Frozen II” on Disney Plus, I post it as part of the process of 50/90.
Surrender the old
Trust in the beginning
Embracing the new
In spite of the blues
These words to the wise
My fears not disguised
This time feels different
Body older and fragile
Relying on me no longer
My spirit is stronger
The old self-reliance
Becomes a castle of silence
My heart beats a longing
For what I know not
Showing up and suited
Desire deeply rooted
Stories and sounds on keyboards I write
What the muse whispers to me in the night
Fifty-ninety begins July 4th and lasts through September 30. The challenge is to create 50 songs in 90 days. I think it will be an awesome way to focus.
Yesterday, I posted on my travel blog some thoughts about my childhood and how when we visited my step dad’s family in California’s Central Valley, I would leave the women behind in the living room talking about babies to sit with the men on the front porch talking trash about drinking, the neighbors, and other stuff I can’t remember while making home-made ice cream.
Anyway, that got me to thinking about how hanging out with musicians in places like FAWM and 50/90 and Sonic Academy is like hanging out with the guys on the front porch. While there are women there, the majority are men. And that’s more than okay.
I also notice that when I’m involved in podcasts and live videos in these communities, we focus on the music. Nothing else exists other than a passing comment about having more time to create music. There’s no politics. And it’s so refreshing.
So I’m thinking that maybe if I focus on the next 90 days, that when it’s over, all of this might be over. Or in a better place than where we are now. And if not, October brings Rocktober and November brings National Solo Album Month (NaSoAlMo), the music version of NaNoWriMo (instead of writing a novel in a month, you write an album). Maybe *then* it will be over. If not, then there’s Christmas and New Year’s and then maybe it will be over or mostly over in 2021.
Okay, so my latest toy is Kick 2 by Sonic Academy. Paired with Logic Pro X 10.5, well, I’m in beat heaven!
I used to joke that I was a Disco Queen, fell madly in love with disco the first time I walked into Earthquake Ethel’s and the pulsating beat led me to one of the three dance floors. (We didn’t take many photos back then, so this is the closest pic I can find from that era.)
So, it comes as no surprise, really, to find myself into EDM (Electronic Dance Music), especially because I’ve been involved professionally with electronic production since those early disco days. First in publishing, now in music.
Funny how people were determined to kill disco. Funny also how romance writers were determined to kill chick lit. Both my favorite genres. Well, I guess it’s true. I do seem to march to a different drummer, which means:
To act independently, differ in conduct or ideas from most others.
As Henry David Thoreau said in Walden (1854): “If a man(woman) does not keep pace with his(her) companions, perhaps it is because he(she) hears a different drummer.”
(This may be repetitive for those who have read this blog for some time, but in a nutshell, this is the background to my music journey.)
I’ve always loved singing – even from a young age. My mother tells the story of me, smudge on cheek, sitting on the front porch singing with my step dad while he played guitar – me having no idea what the lyrics were to the song. Later, I performed in the school choir and sang as a soloist. I played an electric organ I got for my 7th birthday. Later, I moved on to piano and when groups like the Beatles were all the rage, I even played a few chords on the guitar.
I was stumped by three things.
- You have a great ear for music
- Your writing is poetic, almost lyrical in rhythm
The first one was said by my school music teacher and later, my vocal coach in Las Vegas (he appeared in Mamma Mia), and the second was my literary agent when she signed me for Real Women Wear Red.
- My favorite words in 1st Grade were “said” and “David”
- My favorite songs had stripper-like drums
Later, when I met my father, he said “All my kids play the drums” and then it all fell into place. That explained some of my favorite songs, and, of course, the “d” in those words sounded like a drum – lol!
I also discovered my grandmother wrote poetry. Ah… I started putting it all together, pursuing songwriting and got a new music keyboard. But something wasn’t quite coming together. Then, as I started studying music production, first GarageBand, then LogicPro, and now Ableton Live, I realized how much I loved “sound” – it’s something more than just music.
I recently purchased Kick2 and Ana2 from Sonic Academy, learning deeper levels of sound design. And I absolutely love it! This is so bringing me out of the doldrums this weird time in our world has brought to us.
This also brings up questions, such as:
- Should I do 50/90 this year?
- Will I renew my TAXI A&R membership?
Neither seem all that focused on the kind of music and/or sounds I’m creating. Perhaps it’s time to reassess my goals.
Many of you blogging this blogmas have mentioned the books you’ve enjoyed reading over the holidays. And in the past, that might have been me, too, especially if you mean fiction. But this year I’ve been cramming learning Ableton Live, taking tutorials and reading non fiction books. Gearing up for FAWM (“February Album Writing Month”), I guess
Logic Pro X is my DAW of choice but as an EDM producer, I wanted to learn Ableton Live. It seems so suited to the music genre. But it’s been quite a struggle in some ways, in others it’s been a breeze. I think that’s because each DAW specializes in different areas. I can sit down and start creating a song right away in Logic Pro, in Ableton, it seems the simplest things are the most difficult. But when it comes to mastering more of the advanced features in music production, Ableton seems to do it much more easily.
And while I’ve been madly applying myself to music tutorials for Ableton, I stumbled upon some really cool ones for Logic Pro, too, and have learned some interesting things I’m quite excited about. What to do, what to do? Ableton Live or Logic Pro? Well, I suppose I really don’t have to choose because I imagine it’s good for a producer to know more than one DAW. The real choice is which one do I use in the moment? lol!
There are a lot of tutorials out there, but it can be challenging following along. Sometimes they use third party plug-ins that you don’t have or their techniques zip past you so fast, you can’t possibly keep up. I’ve probably tried dozens just on one site. Anyway, here’s a sample song I managed to figure out in Ableton Live (via Groove3) from programming drums and synths to mixing and adding special effects such as EQ, reverb, and automation.
It’s that time of year when we start looking back over the year to see how we did in whatever we’d hoped to pursue or accomplish at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve the year before.
So, as I start to look back on 2018, I realize there were many firsts for me musically. And while February may have brought my second FAWM, July through September enticed me to try my first 50/90 (write 50 songs in 90 days challenge). During that time, I even took on the challenge of trying out Ableton Live 10 (Standard Version). I’m now upgrading to Suite with so much more to learn yet.
All of that was so much fun, making friends and sharing music with other musicians, I couldn’t resist participating in my first Rocktober (Rock cover songs done your way) in October. Now I’m counting down to the next FAWM, looking forward to meeting up with some of my new friends, to see what they’re doing musically, and to see how far I hope to come by February.
Listening to some of the songs I wrote/produced this year, one of my favorites is Pop the Clutch:
Just returned from a birthday trip to SoCal, so I’m a little behind with 50/90 (50 songs in 90 days), but thought I’d post my 5th and favorite song (so far). Check it out:
Woke up to another beautiful sunny day here in Las Vegas and that means waking up early this time of year. The dawn begins to break a little before 5 am and by 6, I can no longer stay in bed. I climb down the stairs from the third floor, stopping off on the second floor to grab a cup of coffee before continuing on to my first floor studio.
I log onto my Mac and continue with a Master Class on Electronic Dance Music, which I absolutely love and have loved since my Disco days. Playing around with sound triggers the knowledge I now have about my father and that side of a musical family – the family I did not know growing up. People did that more back then – when the couple split, that was the end of the father and “hello, step dad” who was now dad (sometimes you didn’t know he wasn’t your dad), and you used his last name.” Good-bye identity.
But that is old news. What strikes me today as I play around with sounds for an Electro Pop song is that knowing I have an “ear for music,” (told to me throughout my school years and later by my Las Vegas vocal coach, who happened to be starring in “Mamma Mia” on stage), was how lonely it was for me to have these gifts but not really understand them, unable to embrace my true identity because I was surrounded by strangers who were family. Strangers because my mother and half-siblings did not have these gifts, although to his credit, my step dad played the guitar. Ironically, he was the most supportive of my music. But my mother and siblings seemed to want to down play my musical gifts. Subtly, of course. 😮
So here I am, decades later, having met and discovered my family and my identity, pursuing my love for music, embracing all that I am. It’s a thrill, a triumph, but with a sense of loss and regret of the choices that others made for me. And why I’m such an advocate for children, whether adopted or conceived through sperm and egg donors or anything that has gotten in the way of children not knowing who they truly are. It’s an outrage!
Over ten years ago (closer to fifteen now), I wrote and published my story in Myths of the Fatherless, but I think it’s needed even more today.
In the Studio: Electro Pop song in progress
Story and Music by Kathy Holmes
I love making book trailers, using visuals and making my own music to give a peek into a story I also wrote. L.A. Nights is available as a standalone short story or as part of the Cougars in Cabo anthology. For more information, see SHORT STORIES under the BOOKS menu.
January has just begun and already I’m in trouble. Choosing to focus on writing and music, I realize I must designate one as the priority because both of them take enormous skill and time and focus to succeed. Sure, I can pursue both, but I must choose which will be number one in my life. I keep returning to this truth for me.
Music always wins. And now I have a separate designated studio in my home, which is great because then the cats can’t chew the wires. 🙂
But songwriting still counts as writing, right? Will that be enough or will I have to fit in fiction, too? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Besides, I can always write fiction during breaks from music because you always need breaks, right? But there are just so many pieces to a song, including vocal warmups, as Shelly Peiken writes about in her latest blog post here.
We all have goals we set for the new year, and I’m setting goals for both writing and songwriting, I’ve been struggling with how to juggle both but I find that instead of saying I’ll do music in the morning and writing in the afternoon or vice verse, I just have to go where the muse leads me – as long as it leads me somewhere on a daily (M-F) basis.
The best way I know to start warming up with music is to do some rehearsal vocals as a singalong cover song. So as I was rearranging the kitchen cabinets (have I told you how tiny this kitchen is?) in the Vegas house, I heard this song on Spotify and just had to do my thing with it.
So, here it is, warming up with “You’re Somebody Else” (Flora Cash).
As hard as I’ve tried to get back into writing fiction – taking a class from the Las Vegas chapter of RWA and reading No Plot, No Problem – to motivate myself to join NaNoWriMo for the month of November, I just can’t do it. I’m too far gone when it comes to music these days and I’m dreaming of upgrading my studio.