A Gentle Nudge on Creativity and Craft

I thought I’d share some advice on making things that’s helped me over the years.

I find that, when I sit down with the intention of making a work, it’s helpful if I have a small idea in my mind that I’d like to try out. You know, a newly discovered tool that I haven’t yet put to use. Whether it be a small tool (i.e. I’d like to try using a bit of repetition in my lyrics) or a big tool (I’d like to write music that can be played at airports), I think having these in my mind helps me create what I want – or, at least, anything at all. Let me give you some examples about tools I recently discovered, and tools I have my eyes set on.

https://soundcloud.com/codysean/the-great-hollow?in=codysean/sets/my-music Continue reading “A Gentle Nudge on Creativity and Craft”

The Turners

Outside of a Wendy’s parking lot, a man collects cans in a trash bag. His daughter is in a shopping cart playing with a doll.

“Daddy…It’s hot.”

The city of Phoenix hit a high of 117 degrees that afternoon and the people felt it. The heat followed them into their cars and into their psyche where it frazzled, fried and left them lethargic, limping over the crosswalks and crooked asphalt.

“I know, sweetie. Please, put some more sunscreen on.” Continue reading “The Turners”

Lennon, Cash and Long Verse Structures

Today I’ll be talking about a particular tool in the songwriter’s kit that I don’t see utilized much any more: The long, non-repeating verse structure. This is in contrast to your standard pop verse which might be upwards of, say, 16 measures long, but typically takes a four bar (sometimes eight bar) chord progression and repeats it a few times – maybe changing the vocal melody on top to keep it interesting. I’ll just dive right in so you get the idea of what I’m talking about:

Johnny Cash – Sunday Morning Comin’ Down

sunday morning

Continue reading “Lennon, Cash and Long Verse Structures”

Black Hole Sun and Borrowed Chords

I think back to my Rock Band days: Sitting in my friend’s living room during the middle school awkwardness, playing this track on a plastic guitar, then eventually on plastic bass and drums. I was fixated, mesmerized. Even the times I had heard this song before – on the radio or in the movies or what have you – I always found my ears erect, perked and delighted. The sound is so otherworldly, but not demented or twisted. Just…Strange. Captivating. And beautiful. Like an extraterrestrial, I can’t help but gawk at the alien life.

To me, there are two factors planting this song somewhere on Mars, and the first is the chord selection. More than half of the chords are non-diatonic, and even the tonal chords are approached in such bizarre ways that, well, they may as well be non-diatonic too.

The second is the guitar sound, but I’ll touch on that later. Continue reading “Black Hole Sun and Borrowed Chords”

HTC Vive Impressions

After a long day of taking orders and ringing people up, I stopped by Will’s apartment to play his HTC Vive. His apartment was gated and my claustrophobia from the tiny street was weighing down on me as I waited for him to come out and let me in. Some lady with her dog did so for me, and then told me I couldn’t park inside because it was for residents only. With a sigh I relinquished and poorly parallel parked on that shallow street. Will came outside, barefooted and bearded, and let me in.

I said to him “Hey man I brought you some mistake sandwiches from my work…Didn’t cost me a dime! I got a tuna and a half a turkey” Continue reading “HTC Vive Impressions”

Order Taking

The classy, 70-something white haired woman walked up to the counter to place her order
“Let’s see…I’ll have turkey…”
I wrote a “T” at the top of the bag.
“On…”
I looked off to the outside. Birds were flying about, playing with each other. Maybe mating. Maybe roughhousing. Making lots of sounds I couldn’t hear.
“…Multigrain wheat…”
I checked off “Multigrain Wheat”
“With…”
I looked toward the front door. Someone had just walked in and was moseying. Exploring the cheeses, the menu, the coffee, the atmosphere.
“Yellow mustard”
“Oh uh we don’t carry yellow. Just brown, champagne and Russian hot”
“No yellow?! Well okay then…Champagne mustard. And…”
I checked off “Mustard” and wrote in “Champ.” David Bowie’s Sound and Vision played in my head as I waited for the lady to decide. The guitar melody, the phat, gated snare, the descending vocal line. It was as clear as on a record player. What I would give to to hear the actual thing in that moment.
“No mayonnaise.”
I crossed off the “Mayonnaise” option on the bag.
“…And…”
She eyed the toppings. Entire civilizations rose to the peak of knowledge and technology and then crumbled to the ground as she contemplated her sandwich fixings.
“…Lettuce, tomato, cheese, uhm…Let’s see what kind…”
I checked off the “Lettuce, tomato” and “cheese” options.
Baby Jesus was born, crucified and named King and the entire western world became infatuated with Him and His teachings, then disenfranchised and turned their hearts and minds to reason and Bob Marley.
“Swiss is good. Maybe some other stuff, too…”
The walls shifted into plasticine tiles and began to sink below the dusty wooden paneling of the retail floor. The black, loose leaf teas, weightless and no lounger bound by their glass jars, floated up through the restaurant and expelled a pleasant, herbal scent. The hummingbirds, attracted to the commotion, poured in through the now-open windows like salmon up a river. The oven-sized coffee grinder began its buzzing of the Kona coffee bean and a merry-go-round circus waltz could be heard coming from inside of it. My coworkers paraded around the sandwich bar in joyous celebration of freedom from the customer. The entire shop and its inhabitants did the same. I stood there watching.
“…Avocado. And that’s it!”
I wrote “Avocado” on the bag, got her name and told her we’d call her when it was ready. She sauntered off and I began writing the next order.

Gamebar DJ Set

Vince and I arrived at the video game bar at 8PM sharp because Randy, the booking guy, had asked us to help with sound. All two mics. We were dressed to perform: Him with his jeans, striped blue shirt and white, European-esque polyester Star Trek jacket. Me with my vine green pants and psychedelic space tiger tank top. The place was lined with HDTVs, arcade cabinets and consoles spanning NES to PS4, displaying Super Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat X, Star Wars Battlefront, Killer Instinct, Guitar Hero, Super Smash Brothers and countless others. The floor was mildly sticky everywhere you walked and the whole joint smelled like a greasy trash fire. The kinda smell you find in the alley behind a McDonald’s after all the line cooks have tossed out their frying oil for the night. It never went away, we never got used to it, and I can’t imagine the workers ever being able to do the same…Which explains their unfriendly demeanor and all around unhelpful attitude toward every patron in the place.

I walked up to a bartender
“Hey…We’re playing here tonight. Do we get a drink tab…?”
“Uhh what’s your guys’ name?”
“The Vape Decks”
“Oh, uhm…Hold on I’ll find out” Continue reading “Gamebar DJ Set”