The Groanbox Blog

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fences (and Lightning) Come Down

Well, it is official. The CD master and artwork have been sent to the plant. We finally decided on a title, Fences Come Down. The process was quite incredible. While the genesis of much of the material on the CD has its roots elsewhere, all of it was birthed on the glorious Hollywood Farm. The energy for the music has been building up for quite some time, but we did not actually begin work on it until we were secluded in a small cottage in the woods on the property, which overlooks Ridout Creek. We would get up every morning and do a couple hours work on the farm, have a break, and then work for six to ten hours on the material. It slowly came together. After about a week the Amazing Rolo returned from Scotland and we began recording. We also managed a day of photography with Harry Kalish, Sarah Van Keuren and Chad Chinalai. Harry took the photo above.

Early in the process, Cory and I were working late one evening as a tremendous thunder and lightning storm moved in. Eventually the electricity in the cottage was cut off. We watched the storm through the bay windows in complete darkness, playing music for a while, and then in complete silence. Quite a few bolts hit the water, and sometimes the forest lit up in white flashes, as if a giant spotlight from the sky had been turned on for a few moments. I thought of the storm Cory and I witnessed up in Connecticut while visiting my cousin Bryan, and the lightning bolt that came down within two feet of us. This storm was of another magnitude entirely, and unlike any I have ever experienced.

On the morning of the last full day of mixing and mastering I was reading Vows, a book written by Cory's sister's husband, Peter Manseau. It is an incredibly personal account of his father and mother's journey as clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, how they fell in love and decided to marry, and the consequences this decision had on their lives and those around them. I related deeply to the book as I was once a devout Roman Catholic myself. Vows kept me company throughout the entire process of the recording, along with J.F., Thackray, Cory, Yann, Marcel, Maurice, Victor and Marie Louise, of course!

As I sat in the kitchen reading, I came across a passage where Peter refers to the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki. He describes his reflections on the sole illustration in the center of the book: a housefly.

I was introduced to Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by my friend Gustavo Santaolalla. During a tour a few years ago, he discovered a housefly perfectly pressed in one of the bellow folds of my accordion, where it remains to this day.

A few days after discovering the fly, Gustavo took me aside and said "I want to show you something" He pulled a beat up book stuffed with photos and papers out of his backpack and opened the book up to its center page. There in the center, was the housefly. "I've been carrying this book around with me for years, it is very important to me."

Due to my sensitivity to these things, I was a bit overcome by Peter's mention of the book and my personal experience with it and the fly. I decided to stop reading and take the short walk down Ridout Creek to relax and chill out for a bit.

I took a seat on the dock and looked out over the water. There was a slight breeze blowing and the water had subtle ripples coming towards me. It was around 7:30, the sun was rising and raining down on the creek. I slowly became drawn to the sunlight hitting the water, particularly the way in which it was striking the ripples. It seemed to flash with each one, and there were thousands of them. Before I knew it I was somewhere else and it was raining light. Imagine when it rains and the drops are big enough for you to see. Then imagine that the water drops are light. This is the best way I can describe it. I was overcome, to put it mildly.

I eventually came out of my state, and made it back to the house which was starting to come alive and we set out on the day's work. I finished clearing a part of the farm we had worked on earlier in the week, and Cory cut up a fallen tree.

The rest of the day was spent mixing and mastering.

Thackray had mentioned that it might be a good time to visit her brother Philip that evening. Philip used to work at the ARP synthesizer company, along with my early mentor, Tom Piggott. I found this out a few months after meeting Cory, when we were talking about synthesizers and listening to Wendy Carlos.

Philip lives on the other side of Ridout Creek. The sun was setting when we finally set out to meet him. Cory informed me that the best way to get there was by canoe. Unfortunately Yann had the center seat, which left him helpless in the face of Cory's poor steering abilities and my hopeless paddling. It was quite a nice ride, despite the lack of oarsmanship, and we made it to the other side without incident.

We had a very special and personal meeting with Philip, who has a fascinating mind, and has been personally involved with the creation of some of the finest electronic musical instuments of the 20th century. He was also the actor who played the keyboards while communicating with the aliens in Close Encouters. We finished our meeting with a little bit of singing and accordion/gourd banjo playing. (Thackray had brought our instruments over by car.)

I decided to head back with Thackray rather than risk capsizing with Cory and Yann in the dark. When we got back to the house, I could hear Cory and Yann yelling down by the creek. "Come down here, you have got to see this"

When I got down to the bank, Cory and Yann were still in the canoe, hanging over the side with their hands in the mud. When they moved their hands around, the bottom of the creek would light up. I joined them for a while. We have no idea what caused the phenomenon.

"You know what this is?" I said. "Lightning on the Creek"

Little Lightning inside the water:

Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates

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