Coyote – 11 minutes 26 seconds
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11 Minutes 26 Seconds
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Current catalog: 490 Minutes 17 Seconds
Before we go any further – If you’re reading this and you are in an abusive relationship – follow these links – you might want to use a friend’s computer or one at the library if you think your behavior is being tracked – there are many wonderful people on this planet and they can help you.
- http://www.ncadv.org/ National Coalition against Domestic Violence
One of my favorite gigs was as a song writer on a Country project – every Wednesday I would take the train from Union Station down to San Clemente. I’d spend the next 6 hours working with the artist before catching the 4:10 back up to Los Angeles.
Working with Kelli was great fun; we’d write a song a week and covered topics as diverse as mystery whodunits in the desert through to the debilitating effects of depression. We would write for her voice; that of a strong independent woman who took no shit and could hold her own with anyone.
One day we got onto the subject of domestic violence & it opened up a whole discussion into the socio economic status of western women over the last century. Things have changed pretty rapidly, and while there are still cultural differences, corporate glass ceilings and wage inequities, most of that should die off with the boomers. Women are leading in all areas of society and the idea of a person being unable to leave an abusive relationship just because they’re female is becoming less and less tenable.
Having said that, only those who have been abused know what it’s like and how difficult it is to get out.
We wanted to raise awareness of this issue but to steer well clear of the sanctimonious sympathy that typically accompanies the topic. We wanted to be provocative, we didn’t see victims of abuse as people who needed saving, we saw them as people who needed help and if that help punctured their victimhood, made them indignant and angry enough to change their lives – then we were cool with that.
It was from this space and with Kelli’s voice that we wrote Dumbass:
Daniel was a banker, liked to beat his wife,
She would never leave him, thought she deserved this life.
Every night he would come home, she would bear his rage,
In the morning she’d forgive him, and hope today he’d change.
She’s a DUMBASS!
We never got to work this up with the full band – it lives as an iphone recording from the writing session. I can’t help smiling every time I hear that chorus – the high harmony on “Dumbaaaassss” just cracks me up.
The nice thing about the Amtrak between San Diego and LA is that it runs along the pacific coast – you can sit there and watch the ocean rushing past you at 70 mph. The other nice thing is that it has a bar. After writing sessions I would sit in the café car with a bottle of Stone IPA (or an Arrogant Bastard if I was feeling punchy) edit the notes from the writing session and try and meet as many people as I could.
People on trains are super interesting, people in bars on trains even more so. On the day of the Dumbass session after getting my beer and sitting down I noticed a beautiful young woman at an adjacent table crying. Surrounded by two large suitcases and several empty mini wine bottles, she had attracted the attention of the steward and ticket collector who were doing their best to console her.
She’d clearly had the shittiest day ever but continued to insist that she was OK. Eventually the train staff left and we began to talk. Her name was Maja; she was from Germany and had been travelling with her boyfriend for the past few months. She was now on her own, heading to Venice beach where she knew no-one and was hoping to find a hostel with a spare room.
After a few more beers and bottles of wine her story came out – not that I’m going to relate it here but when she read the words to Dumbass and listened to the recording – we both fell about laughing and so began a friendship.
After speaking to my wife and reassuring herself that we weren’t axe murderers, Maja came and stayed with us for a few days while she got herself straight. We then helped her into a hostel where she insisted on staying until she returned to Germany a few weeks later. We would all get together at the weekends and have stayed in touch via Skype ever since.
Last August Maja gave birth to her first son; Emil Anton Kojote (or Coyote in English.) This music was written for both of them. At 108 beats per minute it is based around his birthday and I spent a lot of time staring at a photo of him and thinking of his mum when I was writing it.
It was a pretty long development process, I ended up scrapping two months of work when I realized I had gone down a rabbit hole (a coyote hole!?) and that the piece wasn’t making sense. The opening melody came as usual in the shower although my kids insist that I ripped it from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer – I can’t hear it, maybe you can. Prior to that the piece had been very dark and it just didn’t make sense for a newborn.
As it developed I realized I had to move away from the idea of writing a lullaby, as it would limit what the piece could become. The more I worked on it the more it wanted to grow, and although I love the three separate primary theme variations, it is the ending that is my favorite part. The underlying structure was initially written using an orchestral string patch which gives the piano much more freedom to explore melody without getting too far away from the core theme.
It is the final build from 10:00 that puts a smile on my face and hope in my soul. The ringing chords at 10:56 make me think of triumphant church bells and leave me feeling very happy about the whole piece.
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