Boomer Eco Crusader!

Image by Christy Mesker from Pixabay

Today we are experiencing unseasonably cool and windy weather in the Greater Boston area.

I sit on my back porch (wearing a winter coat for warmth) and listen to the cardinals, robins and mockingbirds who are all taking turns singing from the tops of nearby trees, roofs, and utility poles…

I also savor the marigolds, basil, kale, cilantro, and sunflowers sprouting in pots around me.

Sprouting seeds and growing plants fill my heart with hope.

Image by MetsikGarden from Pixabay

It is such a weird and wonderful thing that a tiny speck of a seed can transform into a seedling!

To me it feels very similar to the mysterious miracle of how a caterpillar can transform into a butterfly…

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

I am deeply honored to learn that last Friday Michelle at Boomer Eco Crusader published an entire blog post featuring my song “We’re Running A Big Experiment.”

I have been reading her blog for a couple of years.

I always find inspiration about ways to improve my life right now — as well as ways to improve the future lives of our children, grandchildren, and all the other beings who will inherit the fossil-fuel-driven messes that we are leaving as our legacy here on planet earth.

If you are not already following her blog, I heartily recommend you check it out by clicking here.

THANK YOU to Michelle and to everyone else who has been listening to — and sharing! — this song after it was officially distributed to various digital platforms earlier this month.

Image by Peggychoucair from Pixabay

I am aware that music can at times be considered somewhat trivial/pointless/insignificant.

But at other times, it can be a vital glue that brings us together and inspires us.

If you are curious to listen to “We’re Running A Big Experiment” directly, you can click here for links to various digital music platforms (such as YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.)

And if you resonate with it — please feel free to share it with other kindred spirits.

Image by tookapic from Pixabay 

Thank you to Doug Hammer for playing the piano on this song and also recording, engineering, mixing, and mastering it with me.

Thank you to Stephen Fischer and his graphic design students who helped to create the artwork for this song.

Thank you to the photographers at Pixabay for their wonderful images.

And Happy Juneteenth to any/all readers in the USA!!!

Image by janeb13 from Pixabay 

We’re Running A Big Experiment…

Thank you to everyone who read and listened to and commented on my last blog post!

It has been lovely to re-connect with WordPress friends and acquaintances after my three-month hiatus from blogging (although I did continue to read a fair number of other people’s blog posts during that fallow time).

Last night I was unable to fall asleep.

I am guessing it was a combination of reading two more chapters of Deep Adaptation (which can be profoundly terrifying and heart-breaking) combined with falling asleep for an hour during an unsatisfying football game earlier this evening (our New England Patriots fell ignominiously to the Buffalo Bills with a final score of 17 to 47) combined with the several chocolate truffles (made in Canada for Trader Joe’s) which I ate in the late afternoon before bundling up in many layers — t-shirt, hoodie, thin down jacket, thick down vest, thin black jacket, hat, gloves, and huge winter parka — and walking around a local lake in the very cold, refreshing winter air.

I have included another new song in the player at the beginning of this blog post.

I had intended to release it at the very beginning of 2022, but two things have delayed me.

One is some confusion about whether I should continue to use CD Baby (the company that has been distributing my recordings with pianist Doug Hammer to various digital music platforms) as my publishing administrator.

In case you do not know, when one records a song, there are two main copyrights for that recording.

One is a copyright for the actual recording.

That is usually owned or controlled by the recording artist (such as Lady Gaga or Tony Bennett or an independent musician like me) or by the recording artist’s record label (which may have advanced the money needed to make the recording…)

The other is a copyright for the song itself.

That is usually owned by the songwriter(s) and/or their publishing company.

So when I record a song written by someone else (Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, for example), I own the copyright for my specific recording, and I pay a mechanical royalty in advance to the entity which owns the compositional copyright for that song.

When I record and release one of my original songs, I act as my own record label AND publishing company — and up until this point I’ve been using CD Baby as my publishing administrator.

A publishing administrator helps to track down earnings on behalf of the person who wrote the song.

I recently took an online class to learn more about how one might get one’s songs placed in TV shows and movies — and it turns out that one option is to find a sync rep to help me pitch my songs to music supervisors (who find songs for TV shows, movies, advertisements, and video games).

And some sync reps also like to act as one’s publisher — so having an agreement with CD Baby to be the publishing administrator for my original songs might be a detrimental to building a relationship with a sync rep…

So I’ve been stalled for the past month, wondering exactly what to do next regarding my publishing administration options.

And sadly, CD Baby — which once offered immediate phone assistance when it was a groovy, independent company — now only offers phone callbacks (during a window of time over a couple of days) or email responses (which also can take many days to get a response).

I assume this is because they were bought up by a larger company who decided that the immediate phone assistance option was too expensive and/or inefficient.

And it took two weeks for them to respond to my most recent questions about their publishing administration option — maybe because it was the holiday season and/or maybe because my question didn’t fit perfectly into one of their dropdown menu options for customer service assistance…

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

Another reason why I have been delayed in releasing my new songs is because a few of them are about challenging topics such as our climate change/disaster and our current Covid epidemic/disaster — which I am guessing might elicit strong feedback/pushback (the prospect of which I find scary…)

And of course there is probably good-old-fashioned denial at work, too.

Sharing songs such as “We’re Running A Big Experiment” with the rest of the world (or rather with the people who have electricity and smart phones/computers and access to digital music platforms such as Spotify and Pandora and Apple Music around the world) somehow makes the topics I am writing about more real.

I can no longer hide in my own little puddle of denial once I put them out there.

And denial is an extraordinarily wily and powerful psychological mechanism/phenomenon.

One of the things I’ve been observing — in a spirit of curiosity rather than judgement — is how much denial can be triggered when one begins reading Deep Adaptation.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a friend invited a group of us (seven total) to read it together and also to discuss it each month via Zoom.

Since we began this process, some of us have managed to write down the wrong time for our Zoom meetings, some have taken a nap and almost missed a Zoom meeting (until someone else called and woke them up), and some have gotten ill and missed a Zoom meeting.

And many of us — myself very much included — have struggled to read the recommended chapters before each monthly Zoom meeting.

What have been YOUR experiences with denial?

And with climate change?

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

I wrote in my last email that I was going to write shorter blog posts; so I’d better end this one now.

I am very grateful to you if you have managed to read this far and perhaps have also listened to “We’re Running A Big Experiment.”

Thank you!

I am also very grateful to Doug Hammer — for his wonderful piano playing AND his engineering skills AND his advice/input regarding the harmonies I sang on this song — as well as to the photographers and artists at Pixabay for their magnificent images.

And I remain truly grateful for all the blessings I currently have in my life — food, shelter, heat, warm clothing, electricity, a functional computer, access to the internet, a reliable bicycle, family, friends, and the WordPress community (to name just a few!)

One final deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

PS: You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find many songs (and learn more about my musical life here on planet earth if you are curious).

You can also find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on SpotifyPandoraApple Music and other digital music platforms.

And if you are hungry for a more uplifting song as an antidote to “We’re Running A Big Experiment,” you are welcome to click here and listen to a song I wrote a few years ago when visiting friends in Toronto called “Another Good Morning” (which I recorded with Doug Hammer and released on a bunch of different digital music platforms last year).

I earn only a fraction of a cent any time someone plays one of my recordings on a digital music service — but they all add up!

PPS: If I have mis-explained the basic copyright concepts regarding recorded songs, please correct me in the comments section!

6/13/22 I finally distributed “We’re Running A Big Experiment” via CD Baby to various digital music platforms! You can click here to listen on Pandora, Youtube, Apple Music, Spotify, and more…

My Sweet Honeydew

Thank you to everyone who has continued to visit my blog even though I have written no fresh posts in the past three months.

After this fallow period of non-blogging, today I am happy to be writing a new post.

As faithful readers may remember, for the past year and a half I’ve been focused on recording, fixing, mixing, and releasing decent versions of songs with significant amounts of input, collaboration and expertise from pianist/engineer Doug Hammer.

“My Sweet Honeydew” — featured in the player at the top of this post — is part of a new crop of original songs I’ll be sharing in 2022.

Image by sandid from Pixabay

Some of these songs attempt to make sense out of the tipping point which human civilization — along with the rest of the extraordinary web of life here on planet earth — is now experiencing due to our overconsumption of fossil fuels during the past 150 years or so.

“My Sweet Honeydew” highlights the gratitude I attempt to practice every day despite horrible news such as the accelerating extinction of plant and animal species; the increasing frequency and severity of fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes; and the political unrest/discord which these events stir up!

I am very grateful to live in the United States of America and specifically in Massachusetts, which is currently led by a rare Republican governor who believes in science and who continues to respect the ever-evolving recommendations of public health experts during our ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Because of these two geographical blessings, I have so far been spared most of the anguish and shortages and panic and destruction that so many other beings on planet earth are already experiencing.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

But I am aware that this could change — and possibly much faster than most of us who currently have access to food and clean water and shelter and electricity and computers and the internet would like to think is possible…

That’s because I’ve been reading a book called DEEP ADAPTATION with a small group of friends.

So far it’s been a very sobering experience — as you may know if you have already read it.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay

I’ll probably write more about DEEP ADAPTATION in future blog posts.

Please let me know in the comments section if you have already read it — and what YOU make of it…

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

I have a few resolutions for 2022.

One is to continue to decrease the impact of my life on all of the ecosystems which support our lives here on planet earth.

Image by Hajnalka Mahler from Pixabay

Another is to write shorter blog posts.

And a third is to remain curious (if that is possible) rather than terrified or furious or disheartened or disgusted about everything that continues to unfold here in these not-very-United-States.

One more deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find many songs (and learn more about my musical life here on planet earth if you are curious).

You can also find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on SpotifyPandoraApple Music and other digital music platforms.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

And if you are hungry for more music, you are welcome to click here and listen to a sweet version of the jazz standard “Skylark” by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael which I recorded with Doug Hammer on a bunch of different digital music platforms.

I earn only a fraction of a cent any time someone plays one of my recordings on a digital music service — but they all add up.

Thank you to the wonderful photographers and graphic artists at Pixabay.

And thank YOU for reading yet another one of my blog posts!

Image by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay 

I welcome your comments below if you are moved to leave one.

Perhaps 2022 will be better than 2021.

We shall see…

One final deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Questions…

Questions…

“Questions” by Steve Sweeting and Will McMillan

I mentioned in my last blog post that I’ve been doing a lot of reading and watching educational videos about how the music industry works.

Today’s song — which I wrote with pianist/composer/songwriter Steve Sweeting many years ago — is perfectly themed for my current state of understanding (and lack thereof…)

In case you are the least bit curious, here’s a little of what I’ve been learning.

As a singer and songwriter, I am supposed to file for two types of copyright: sound recording (also known as the “master recording”) and song composition (of the actual song).

Song compositions generate payments to songwriters and music publishers — and sound recordings generate payments to recording artists and record labels.

So it turns out I need to learn how to wear four business hats: recording artist, record label, songwriter, and publisher.

Actually I also need to learn how to wear a publicist hat, a business manager hat, a booking agent hat, a social media/advertising hat — and the list goes on and on…

I have learned that sound recordings are given a unique ISRC code so that they can be tracked around the planet as they are downloaded, streamed, enjoyed via satellite radio, played in elevators as Muzak, etc.

In theory this tracking leads to various payment streams for the artist who recorded the song, their record company, the person (or team) who wrote the song, and their publishing company.

Also each original song composition is given a unique ISWC code for tracking purposes.

For example, Dolly Parton wrote and recorded “I Will Always Love You” when she made a very difficult decision to leave Porter Wagoner’s TV show.

This song has a unique ISWC code as a composition AND a unique ISRC code as her particular sound recording of it.

I loved reading in a 2012 interview about how Ms. Parton came to write this iconic song.

Porter and Dolly

“I was trying to get away on my own because I had promised to stay with Porter’s show for five years. I had been there for seven. And we fought a lot. We were very much alike. We were both stubborn. We both believed that we knew what was best for us. Well, he believed he knew what was best for me, too, and I believed that I knew more what was best for me at that time. So, needless to say, there was a lot of grief and heartache there, and he just wasn’t listening to my reasoning for my going.”

She continued, “I thought, ’He’s never going to listen. He’s just going to bitch every day that I go in to talk about this.’ So I thought, ’Well, why don’t you do what you do best? Why don’t you just write this song?’ Because I knew at that time I was going to go, no matter what. So I went home and out of a very emotional place in me at that time, I wrote the song, ’I Will Always Love You.'”

“It’s saying, ’Just because I’m going doesn’t mean I won’t love you. I appreciate you and I hope you do great and I appreciate everything you’ve done, but I’m out of here. And I took it in the next morning. I said, ’Sit down, Porter. I’ve written this song, and I want you to hear it.’ So I did sing it. And he was crying. He said, ’That’s the prettiest song I ever heard. And you can go, providing I get to produce that record.’ And he did, and the rest is history.”

Since then her song has been recorded by a lot of other singers — most famously by Whitney Houston.

And each recorded version has its own unique ISRC code as part of its metadata (plus Dolly’s ISWC code for writing the song) so that it can be monitored — and monetized — via unimaginably vast banks of computers keeping track of playlists, streams, downloads, broadcasts, Muzak services, etc.

Right now the music industry is in the middle of a paradigm shift which began when digital recording technology and CDs arrived in our lives.

When I was first making music as a young adult — performing with a jazz pianist, in a folk duo, and as part of an original five-person pop/rock band — I earned money from live gigs and from the sale of cassettes and CDs.

That era is over…

Music has gone from being sold on an analog object — such as a piano roll, wax cylinder, record, or cassette tape — to being sold as a long string of zeros and ones.

The zeros and ones which encoded music onto CDs allowed us to make copies of songs using our computers… and then share those copies with the rest of the world.

We could share them with our other devices (such as an iPod), with our friends and family, and eventually — via sites like Napster — with anyone else on the planet who also had a computer.

And no one got paid for any of this free file sharing!

Since then the music industry has continued to evolve — with streaming platforms such as Spotify entering our lives — but revenues for recorded music are still way down.

And now we also have COVID-19 reducing opportunities for musicians to earn money from live performances.

In fact many small music venues in the Boston area have already closed their doors…with more likely to succumb in upcoming months.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

It’s hard to know what’s coming next!

My current plan, since the wonderful Doug Hammer is not yet welcoming customers back into his recording studio in person, is to work with him remotely (using Zoom) and polish some songs we’ve recorded in past years.

And write a few more blog posts explaining what I am learning about the music industry.

And continue to wear a face mask when I leave my house.

And ride my bike and walk whenever possible.

And lead Music Together classes — both outside (wearing a new face shield + wireless headset) and inside via Zoom.

And give as much money as I can afford to various political candidates and non-profit organizations who are doing their best to prevent our country from lurching into an autocracy.

Another deep breath in.

And out.

Thank you to Pixabay for their lovely images.

Thank you to Steve Sweeting for writing songs with me and to Doug Hammer for helping us record a bunch of them.

And thank YOU for reading another blog post!

This Moment

This Moment

 

I love this song by John Bucchino.

Butterfly8

I thought of it often as I was carrying boxes from my sister’s apartment in Laguna Niguel, CA to a 16′ Penske moving truck parked about 100 feet from her front door.

A monarch butterfly would appear every few hours — flapping from flower to flower before drifting away on a gentle breeze.

Monarch2

And I would find myself singing this song.

I don’t know what inspired John to write it, although I am guessing that he must have some sort of meditation practice.

Butterfly7

I first heard it sung at the Yale Cabaret Conference I participated in many years ago… and immediately wanted to learn it.

I practiced the lyrics over and over again one summer as I walked up and down a sandy path through a scrub pine forest en route to Head of the Meadow beach in North Truro, MA.

butterfly2

Pianist Doug Hammer and I have performed it several times since then (that’s Doug playing in the recording at the beginning of this blog post), and Mike Callahan did an arrangement which I got to perform with him as part of a Timberlane Pops Orchestra concert in New Hampshire.

It is a perfect example to me of a “wisdom song” — which helps me to re-align with my better, wiser self whenever I sing it.

Butterfly11

Writing this post inspired me to search on Pixabay for some butterfly images, and I was astounded by what I found.

Caterpillar

The idea that earthbound caterpillars can transform themselves into winged butterflies — that they can literally dissolve themselves and re-form their molecules into a new type of being — has fascinated and inspired us human beings for millennia.

Cocoons

I am also inspired by the paths they take — paths which do not travel in a straight line from point A to point B yet manage to cover vast amounts of mileage none-the-less.

Butterflies have a inner sense of where they are headed, but they also follow and respond to whatever flowers and breezes appear along their journey.

This seems to be how I, too, am moving through my musical life here on planet earth.

Monarch1

I looked online to learn more about the current health of our butterfly populations.

First I was directed to a relatively new company called “Butterfly Health” that seems to specialize in adult diapers…

Butterfly9

Then I found a lovely story about vineyards in eastern Washington which “stopped using harmful pesticides and created natural habitats with native shrub-steppe plants around the vineyards to keep out harmful insects (e.g., mealybugs) and attract beneficial insects (e.g., parasitic wasps) that feed on pests.”

These vineyard saw a significant increase in butterflies — from an average of five different species to more like twenty different species!

Butterfly13

The article noted that “butterflies don’t protect the vineyards or provide wine growers with economical benefits, (but) they are pollinators and an important element of the ecosystem. Furthermore, having butterflies flutter around a vineyard increases its aesthetic appeal and provides proof of earth-friendly pest control practices.”

Butterfly6

Amen.

I also found articles that were more discouraging, such as one in the great English newspaper, The Guardian.

Butterfly12

It reports that “more than three-quarters of Britain’s 59 butterfly species have declined over the last 40 years, with particularly dramatic declines for once common farmland species such as the Essex Skipper and Small Heath…

‘This is the final warning bell,’ said Chris Packham, Butterfly Conservation vice-president, calling for urgent research to identify the causes for the disappearance of butterflies from ordinary farmland. ‘If butterflies are going down like this, what’s happening to our grasshoppers, our beetles, our solitary bees? If butterflies are in trouble, rest assured everything else is.'”

Deep breath in.

Butterfly4

Deep breath out.

What, I continue to wonder, will it take for enough of us human beings to wake up and take significant actions so that the extraordinary species extinction we are now experiencing on planet earth can slow down…and maybe even stop?

Why are so many of us seemingly oblivious to what is happening to our ecosystems and unable/unwilling to make wiser choices?

Butterfly14

I recently visited a friend’s house (his/her second home, actually) and saw a small vat of RoundUp that I assume s/he is using to take care (??) of weeds in his/her lovely garden.

It was sitting alongside an aerosol can of pesticide to kill wasps.

Butterfly10

This is an extremely well-educated person who loves the views of nature from his/her home overlooking a beautiful river.

Yet s/he is completely oblivious to the increasingly well-documented scientific research linking herbicides and pesticides to all sorts of profound disruptions in the overall health of a wide variety of ecosystems. And disruptions to our own human metabolisms — since we human beings are deeply rooted in nature from an evolutionary perspective and share many of the same biological pathways/systems as our animal and plant cousins..

Butterfly5

I know that beautifully photographed and persuasively written advertising messages from the makers of herbicides and pesticides contribute to our human ignorance..

And lots of us think, “Oh it’s just a little bit of RoundUp or a little bit of wasp spray…”

But it all adds up and takes a cumulative toll on a wide variety of plants and animals and bacteria and fungae which we dearly need to be functioning in balance with each other.

Another deep breath in.

Butterfly15

And another deep breath out.

Thank you to Pixabay for these wonderful photographs of butterflies.

Thank you to Doug Hammer and John Bucchino for their tremendous musicality and songwriting expertise.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another blog post.

What steps — small and/or not-so-small — have you taken in your life to help keep life in balance here on planet earth?