Chicken or Egg

02022-08-21 | Music, Recording, Writing | 4 comments

When do we shape ideas and when are we shaped by ideas? It has to be a continuous interaction and often the lines are so blurred as to be unrecognizable.

I have been working on rhythms for the “Rain Album”, which I think of as a combination of “slow” + “One Guitar”, but with upright bass added on some of the tracks. I listened to many different rain recordings and looked for patterns that could be used as the rhythm bed for a new song. So far I identified five rain rhythms that I worked with. The next step was to find a section that was steady enough, meaning that it didn’t speed up or slow down perceptibly, and to find other sounds, like water drops, that I could add to make some accents stronger.

What makes this difficult is that rain has to have an element of randomness in order to sound like rain. If rain was metronomical it wouldn’t sound like rain. Similarly, if I picked too short of a loop you would quickly hear that it is a loop. There is a fine balance that has to be found. Tricky, but fun.

I don’t know what the guitar parts will sound like and feel that I have to open myself to playing along with the rain rhythms to discover what works. In other words, new territory.

It is typical that I would attempt a project like this when most of my life has been in upheaval. That is not a qualitative statement, just a statement of fact. One should think the smart thing would have been to make an album of music that sounds familiar, that is easy, that is like a perfectly worn-in shoe, especially so soon after a huge move, and while having to figure out a new way to record music. I didn’t only give up a studio that was familiar after nearly thirty years of recording, I am also starting with a new recording platform. I switched from a 2003 computer to a 2021 laptop and moved from Pro Tools 6.9.1 to what is probably PT 15 – in 2018 they stopped counting at PT12 and moved to a date/time based nomenclature, the latest of which is version 22-7, meaning July of 2022. I am currently using the laptop screen and the laptop trackpad and find that the screen is too small – I was working with two screens before, and each of those was bigger than this screen – and that I miss using a mouse. I can obviously improve my game by buying an additional screen and a mouse, but the point I am trying to make is that the music seems to mirror what I am going through. Perhaps that’s what my music has always been like, a mirror of the current state of my heart and head. I always ignored the advice of record companies and managers and instead made albums that I wanted to hear.

What does it feel like? It feels like I am a scout who has been dropped into a new landscape and is trying to make sense of it. This is a new landscape literally and figuratively. I live in new locations and as I familiarize myself with the new landscapes I am also learning a new way to record music, to work with music. So, there’s scouting happening all around. Life feels a little bit like those rain rhythms. It’s not super stable or steady, the patterns keep changing, new sounds surprise, and sometimes delight, and I am not sure where it is all going. No wonder I am enjoying Laozi and the Tao Te Ching at the moment. Be like water.

I think steadiness and predictability is only an illusion anyway. It’s a nice illusion and we all crave it, but it’s a fragile thing. If it does not rain a farm will have no crops. We can be hit by a bus while running across a street or, if you are in America, can be shot by some unhappy dude with an AR-15 who decides to go on a rampage.

In other words, I am trying to embrace the flux I am in and learn to enjoy it. The next album will very much be a record of this. Rain rhythms that are somewhat steady, but full of little surprises, and guitar music that somehow fits into that painting. I can feel hints of this music, which is like seeing a shadow turn a corner, like smelling the perfume of a person who has already left the room, or like a dish that contains a flavor that seems familiar but can’t quite be identified.

It’s a hell of a journey I say with a smile. Glad to have you along.


  1. JaneParham

    Your post is so deep and full. I have to take it in parts. First, when do we shape and when are we shaped by ideas. I’m not sure. Must think……..

    • JaneParham

      Webb telescope recorded sound coming from a black hole 240 million light years from Earth. Talk about scouting utterly new environments! We have been content to believe there is no sound in the “vacuum” of deep space. Glad to hear from you, you Black Hole!

  2. luna

    “Your post is so deep and full. I have to take it in parts.” You expressed my feelings too, Jane. Thank you.

    Ottmar, you shared so much.

    “Rain rhythms are somewhat steady, but full of little surprises… smelling the perfume of a person who has already left the room, or like a dish that contains a flavor that seems familiar but can’t quite be identified.” You described so intensely acute, I could picture it, smell the perfume, and taste it.
    And for some odd reason, as i read along, my eye kept focusing on certain words and phrases that you used like fragility, delight, embrace the flux, be like water, patterns keep changing, illusion, qualitative, upheaval, familiarize, scouting, music that somehow fits into that painting, shadow, dude, dropped into (a) new landscape(s), mouse, trackpad, huge, worn-in-shoe, glad to have you along, rhythm bed, smile, and current state of my heart and head. Wouldn’t it be fun to have to use Only these words and phrases to write a story or poem? All words have to be included in the story! Perhaps the title prompt could be, “Patterns Keep Changing”, or, “New Sounds Surprise”, or, “I’m Not Sure Where It’s All Going?” Or simply, “Rain”, or, “WaterGuitar.”

  3. luna

    Maybe illusion, steadiness, predictability (somewhat certainty like the sun coming up and going down each day), and fragility all coexist in Loving Presence, Peace and Passion simultaneously? Maybe like the water and air on the planet, there is some kind of subtle-yet-powerful fugue of mind-blowing energie (until now;) that we are only beginning to recognize, and it beautifully syncopates when we renew, laugh, hug, hold hands, kiss, giggle, eat ice cream, make love, be authentic, regenerate, dance, touch, see/witness an incredible sunset or smell of a fragrant flower, release old expectations, appreciate everything, listen to music that uplifts our spirit, play like children, be goofy, cry, feel sad, feel elated, enjoy a bonfire with friends, share a meaningful or interesting conversation, open our minds and hearts, try something new, change our location, cook/bake, be kind, share our ice cream, feel angry or triggered, have patience & tolerance, laugh & dance some more, be silly, be serious, climb a tree and so many more things! Whatever “it” is, maybe we just “know it” when we meet “it”, not always spoken, but Wholehearted and Excited, like a child running into their parents arms after school, or like in a Michael Franti & Spearhead video I saw recently, Michael’s BeLoved Partner, standing right next to him on stage as he sang, looked him in the eyes and lovingly put her head on his shoulder. It was so full of Love, Warmth, Affection, Kindness, 2 BeLoved people sharing a natural Loving moment that everyone got to Feel and Receive from. Uncontrived, nothing fancy or planned, just natural Loving, and Sharing it Unapologetically……embracing the flux……it captured (for me) in a picture, your last words, “It’s a hell of a journey, I say with a smile. Glad to have you along.”


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