Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Ambient Travels" And Putting The Southwest On A Shelf

(Excuse any spelling errors.)

Hello everyone!

So, you are now reading what could possibly be my last current blog entry, ever.  :(   ;)   I'm realizing that, as much as I try, I just can't seem to keep a decent blog while traveling. If you know me, you know that I rarely half-ass creative endeavors---at least the parts of them that I am conscious of controlling. I see my blogs and websites the same way.  They are not some note pad for me to scribble and dribble on.  They are something I create for people to look at, and are something I use to communicate what I am experiencing.  Yeah... call me weird.

Anyway, this has been nearly impossible for me to do during trips, as they usually have a time-sensitive, and packed itinerary, and now with an involving music project to boot. In return, attempting to do the impossible by working on the blog everywhere I stop has been taking time out of that schedule and thus complicating it, changing it, and generally holding up the project. I'm not afraid to say this so that others may learn from my mistakes, but--I have failed to finish my project because I was bothering with my blog. And, I've failed to keep a good blog, too.  VICTORY IS MINE!

Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that most of this was due to my extremely involving video entries, so that will definitely

cease as something I do during trips. But knowing my perfectionistic nature when it comes to anything I post, it probably won't make sense for me to even enter text and photos during trips anymore either.  It's just too risky.

With this in mind, I would like to start using these blogs for another novel concept that's really cool. I know the "blog craze" is based only on what's current and what's now-now-NOW with people, but there is far more potential for these pages then most realize.  They can be used as a powerful outlet for memoir entries, and should be, at least until there is some kind of "memoir page craze," which I could use right about now.

So if I can't use blogs as a journal during projects that are this important to me, then I will most def be using them as detailed memoirs and/or records.  Fo sho!  My only hope/wish is that, before these blogs become something for more than just friends, you all keep reading it even though the entries will be past tenths.  I may even end up writing and entering one in your living room, but I would still want you to check it out as though I were writing on location.  This is the essence of a memoir, transporting the reader to another moment and place.

Also, I know I will have a fair amount of literature about this project on the web sooner or later anyway.  Just remember, any literature about this project made available in the future will likely incorporate much of what's on these blogs, as well.


Something that I recently realized probably needs my attention, is that this project needs it's own name.  I can't keep attaching it to the Summit Music Project as though it's the same thing.  They are more different than they are the same.  The Summit Music Project is the act of climbing high, established mountain peaks and making music at the top.  That is a very specific thing, and once at the top, one can only make music in a specific spot.  The rest of the overall project--like what I'm doing right now in the Southwest--is more of a broad and general concept: the act of visiting locations, possibly around the world, just to make music there.  I'm in deserts now, but I just as well could find myself doing this at locations in cities, temples, caves, boats, trains, planes and automobiles.  So, as you can see, it's a different project, or at least a branch of the same one.  [And for anyone who wonders why I would want to do that: again, this project is an impressionistic experiment.  The music is a collaboration between the musician and the surrounding environment, because if the musician were not at that spot/location, then that musician would probably make a different type of song.]

But I'm only calling the overall project what it is, I'm not trying to take anything away from the spirit and essence of the nature-based project I'm working on right now.  That remains in tact.  The title is just for a more all-encompassing categorization.

So, for now I'm just referring to this project as Ambient Travels, being as ambient music seems to be the only kind of music that is easy enough to start and finish, professionally, within a few hours of computer-battery life.  It is also my preferred form of expression for natural settings.  

I may change this title before I go public with the project, but there's no rush.  I also didn't mind the title Scenic Stages, and might use it instead; or perhaps I will call the overall project Scenic Sessions and have branches of it such as Ambient Travels and The Summit Music Project.  Mostly, to be totally honest, of the 15 some-odd title candidates that me and others came up with, nothing has fully described what this project really is.  So, if you have any ideas for titles, please let me know, even though I should warn you that my standards are pretty steep, regardless of the title I've settled on.  (And jokes won't be considered ,'-)

Another thing that my good friend Loren Nerell reminded me of

 was that there is no rush in making this project presentable to the world 


 I have no sponsorship for this and no external deadline to meet, so while I'm working on other, more pressing things, I will be devising just how I want to go public with this.  It's presentation may not change much, but still, there's no need for that pressure right now.  Sure, I've already started giving it a little publicity already, but not a lot.  Eventually this project will get as much priority as every other Fateless endeavor I promote, if not more.


So, onto the rest of my current blog entry:

I plan on being back home, in LA, in roughly a week and a half.

I'm in Moab, Utah, right now.  I've made a lot of progress on this trip/project but unfortunately I will have to head back home

 before I can hit most of the main locations: The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Capital Reef, and the Escalantes. (And I've had to put off meeting my friend John in Yosemite, for 2 months.)  

But that's okay. One way or another I am determined to get back here by early Fall to finish the job. Turning this part of the Southwest into a separate trip will help to air this whole thing out anyway; it's a bit concentrated as it is.  

And I will have to take that trip after I've finished the Washington State portion of this project, in August.

My reasons for heading home I'll have to share with you 

individually.  They are a little too personal to be posting on the web.

Also, I will try two more locations on the way back home, Antelope Canyon and Meteor Crater.

It has taken me over two weeks to make this last video, mainly because after I realized that I wasn't going to have time to create a video per location, I began a montage of all locations up to that point.  This turned out to be--not much easier.  Also, "that point" was basically a month ago, so I've done a lot more ever since the spot where this video leaves off.  Plus, of course, half of it got done in my car in the middle of BF desert while hitting the other locations, which didn't help it's production along either. But it's done and I'm happy with it. You can check it out at the bottom after you've cleaned your plate and finished reading.  ,'-)

You will have to excuse me if writing these long-winded-yet-sane passages on here is making me feel better.  It's almost an exorcize in something.  It's reminding me that I'm still coherent and haven't lost my mind yet.  The frustration and spirit-breaking amount of perfectly-timed obstacles I've experienced on this trip lead me to such emotional acts as striking my equipment, flipping off small town folk (driving), screaming at the sky, screaming at God (whether or not there is one), and generally not taking care of myself.  It became outrageous when I think about it.  But what can I do?  My heart is for both perfection and intricacy, and they are a bad combination.

But there is no way I could live with making this sound like it was all bad.  No way.  There were some truly miraculous and 

expansive (literally) moments out there, and some really interesting and heartfelt music that was created within hours, sometimes minutes.  The highlight of my trip might have been driving to Provo, Utah, to meet up with Nyle Steiner--inventor of the EWI--where we then recorded live, cinematic, ambient music in the mountains near his home.  

But I don't know.  I sure met up and performed with some excellent artists out there, including my brother Brian, when we recorded at Lake Tahoe, and Native-flute player D'Von Charley at Canyon De Chelly.  And some of the artistic things that transpired on the Navaho rez... I just can't ever describe.  

Of course, seeing my mother graduate probably takes the grand prize here.


It was awesome.  And someone graduating, radiantly, at 71 is not something you see every day.  (Take that, mom!)

These are all great things for me to remember at this moment.  I can use the cheering up.


I have been on the road, living in my car for logistically two months now, and have been away from home for over three.  I know... kind of crazy and definitely not planned. There were many conditions and delays on the road after I finally left the Phoenix area, where I had been hovering for over a month.

I had actually started a detailed list of what happened at each location just now, but then I realized that the whole reason I went through all of this trouble to video tape the project was so that I would be able to chop it into a story later.  This is relieving.  ,'-)  I don't have to write all day now.  

And no matter how much more poetic, conceptual and descriptive the medium of writing is, film still makes things more real and official than writing does.  All medias are give and take.

As originally planned, I will later make a short film for each location I've recorded at. Perhaps a documentary will be made about all of my Southwest excursions, but more likely they will be to feed a bigger, separate project, so I will probably create a website just for Ambient Travels (permanent title TBA).


Someone recently asked me how I manage to find the time and money to do this.  To answer this, I have two sets of three words each: "save up money," and "live in poverty."  Explanation: when I say that what I am doing is hard---I seriously mean it.  (Aside from the creative task.)  I would say that, if you're based in a town as far as LA, it takes saving up about a minimum of 3 to 5 hundred dollars for gas, cheap food and video tapes (or hard disks), and then living in your car for weeks on end in natural settings without showering until you find a river.  The funny thing is--I'm being dead serious.  ,'-)

Even so, if one's heart is totally in it, then something like this is

 obviously doable.

And what's left of the taken measures I would be happy to explain to you in more detail, if you are someone I know.

In the meantime, I hope that that answers any questions anyone might have had about it. 


For now, I'll just give you a quick run-through of the rout I took. 

After leaving Phoenix I went up central AZ rout 17 and then cut across to Chinle and the Navaho Nation.  From there I headed as far north as Valley of the Gods before cutting down through the Hopi Rez to Tuba City and back to Flagstaff.  By then, and just before I could get a chance to do the Grand Canyon, it was time for me to drive to Reno, Nevada, so I could make it to my mother's college graduation (something that obviously couldn't wait).  After cutting across Nevada and seeing her graduate (hours after arriving), I hung out with her and my brother, edited video, and composed at locations near there for over a week.  After that I headed back to the Southwest, crossing Nevada on the 80 and seeing the Salt Lake Desert for the first time before arriving at Nyle's house in Provo, Utah. After a couple of days with him I went strait to Moab, a town situated at the heart of canyon country.  I've been here ever since.

Yep, this was a far cry from my original rout, but it goes to show that even when you have something written down and calculated, "The best laid plans..."

But also, it's always wild doing something like going from the freezing could snows of Tahoe to the dry heat of the basin desert and Moab on the verge of Summer, within a day or two.

There is obviously plenty still not yet told about this story, so I will let my latest and last video explain some of it.  Enjoy!  It took me a month and several locations to finish.

I have one last thought in an attempt to feel much better about this whole thing: if I'm not making any kind of "external" world history with this project, I'm definitely making some significant personal history with it.  :)  Definitely.

Talk soon!

More below...


Before I continue:
I also wanted to acknowledge a few more music discoveries on the road that were memorable (cinematic material, and some electro, that goes well with desert travel):


"Triptych" - Ian Boddy, Markus Reuter & Nigel Mullaney

"Amber" & "Tri Repetae" - Autechre

"The Zen Kiss" - Sheila Chandra

"The City" - Vangelis

"Context" - Thought Gild

"Spanners" & "Temple of Transparent Balls" - Black Dog    (indescribable)

"Double Figure" - Plaid

"No Roots" - Faithless

"Lifeforms" - FSOL

"Point Of Arrival" - Loren Nerell

"Propagation" - Robert Rich

"Light Fantastic," "Structures from Silence," "Quiet Music" & "Life Sequence" - Steve Roach

"Song for the Americas" - Jonathan Alias

"Ambient Works Volume 1" - Aphex Twin

"Life is Full Of Possibilities" - Dntel

"Symetric" - Thomas Ronkin  (intense for everywhere)

"Phaedra," "Firestarter" and "Force Majeure" - Tangerine Dream (and for any mountains/forests)

"The Lovely Sound Of Thunder" - Harold Bud

"M'Ocean" & "The Storm" - Michael Stearns

"Galaxies" - Kevin Braheny  (great ambience but be careful of the cheesy-er tracks)

"Aqua Donna" - Vic Hennegan  (everywhere)

"Places In Arizona" - Mr. Soon    (and good in places other than AZ)

"Euphony 2" - a newer compilation I was on (great for other places as well)

"Ambient Time Travelers" - an old Cleopatra compilation I was on

"Indigo" - Patrick O'Hearn (mainly in the mountains/forests)

"Castalia" -  Mark Isham (mainly in mountains/forests)

"On The Shores Of Heaven" - Jeff Pierce (and partly in mountains/forests)

"Mythic Dreamer" - R. Carlos Nakai (and great to mix into other things ;-)

Also, Voices of Kwan's second CD.  I can't remember the name at the moment.

So I know I'm leaving some out but maybe I'll name them later.  There is also more I will get to on the next trip, because there is more that I wanted to re-connect with yet didn't have time. 

Also, I've been doing a lot of mixing on the road: I leave ITunes on random shuffle and then leave another program on over that (playing a drone-ish playlist) and then listen as I drive.  Some very cool and coincidental moments emerge.  So, I have to correct myself about something on the video; a girl was asking me if I also DJ during this trip, and I said "no."  That's not exactly true.  I make original music at a specific location, but as I drive I let experimental DJ sets record on my laptop.  I've got some great ones to show for it.


Saul Stokes (really great)

Sleepy Town Manufacturer

Badloop (so brilliant)

Resonant Drift

Vir Unis

The Circular Ruins

Abfahrt Hinwil


Planet Bolex

There are at least five more that I can't think of.  I remember the music, well, but not the names.  Again, later...


All the best!